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From the Timesunion

Health professionals urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday to have the state, which last year banned natural gas hydrofracking, also put the brakes on several major natural gas pipeline expansion projects currently on the drawing board.

Letters to the governor and Acting State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker were signed by 11 doctors and other health professionals affiliated with Concerned Health Professionals of New York and the state chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“Gov. Cuomo and his administration showed great wisdom and courage in listening to the science and ultimately prohibiting high-volume fracking in order to protect public health. Similar to fracking, numerous gas infrastructure proposals pose risks of harm to public health, air pollution, and exacerbating climate change,” said Kathy Nolan, a member of both groups and the research director of the environmental group Catskill Mountainkeeper.

The letter urged the governor to “hold or deny any expansion of natural gas transmission and storage projects, until and unless their safety can be demonstrated through comprehensive public health and environmental assessments.”

Nolan said while pipelines fall under federal jurisdiction, the state can exert control through its water and air quality permits that such projects also require.

Cuomo’s office referred questions to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which said the letter was under review.

The groups also sent the governor and Zucker their updated compilation of an expanding number of scientific studies that raise concerns over potential health and environmental impacts of natural gas fracking, and from pipelines used to gather and ship that gas long distances to customers.

Last spring, the two groups sent Cuomo and Zucker their initial compilation of about 250 such studies as part of an effort to convince the state to ban fracking. “There have been more than 100 such studies since New York banned fracking, and now we have more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle,” said Ithaca doctor Sandra Steingraber.

The letter said studies are raising concerns over gas pipeline networks, which include compressor stations needed to push the gas through the pipes. With large amounts of natural gas coming from the fracking fields of Pennsylvania, New York is seeing several pipeline expansion projects — including the Northeast Energy Direct and Constitution projects in the Southern Tier and Capital Region — meant to move gas to markets in New England, Canada and overseas.

The NED project proposes a new compressor station off Clark’s Chapel Road in Nassau, Rensselaer County. The letter to Cuomo said such stations are “major sources of air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde, that create serious health risks for those living nearby while offering little or no offsetting economic benefits.”

The letter also raised concerns about periodic depressurization of the stations for maintenance that are called “blowdown” events. “The intentional or accidental releases of gas through valves create 30- to 60-meter-high gas plumes, causing high levels of contaminant release. Anecdotal accounts associate blowdowns with short term effects such as nosebleeds, burning eyes and throat, skin irritation and headache. Given the chemicals released, we are deeply concerned about the possible long-term effects of these exposures, including cancer, asthma, heart disease and severe neurological impairments,” according to the letter.