STATEMENT OF STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOURCES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES CONCERNING H.R. 2606, A BILL TO authorize the Secretary of the Interior to allow the construction and operation of natural gas pipeline facilities in the Gateway National Recreation Area, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
MARCH 7, 2012
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 2606, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to allow the construction and operation of natural gas pipeline facilities in the Gateway National Recreation Area, and for other purposes.
The Department supports H.R. 2606 with amendments described later in this statement.
H.R. 2606 addresses the need for expansion of the current gas line operated by the firm National Grid. The last expansion was over 40 years ago and the line is at capacity. This legislation would authorize the Secretary to allow for a natural gas pipeline right-of-way to pass through Gateway National Recreation Area. Further, it authorizes a non-competitive lease that will facilitate the adaptive use of two historic aircraft hangar buildings on Floyd Bennett Field to house facilities needed for operation of the pipeline. Use of the buildings would be subject to restoration of the buildings and the collection of payment for their use at fair market value.
Numerous alternative routes were considered by National Grid as part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission compliance process. However, the most feasible route considered would be to use an underground pipeline that traverses lands within Gateway National Recreation Area. It would require a 60,000-square-foot facility to house the metering station and equipment needed to move the gas from the supply lines into smaller, lower-pressure distribution pipelines.
One option considered is to build the facility outside of the park. If built outside of the park, the National Park Service believes that the metering station and required security structures, which would be the approximate size of a football field with 20-foot high walls, would impact park resources, particularly the park viewshed.
The option of constructing a new facility within the park would also cause impacts. New construction for pipeline facilities within the park would be contrary to the National Park Service's goals of reducing infrastructure and carefully managing existing facilities. Floyd Bennett Field and its associated buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district, and such new construction could additionally jeopardize this status.
The option that appears to be most feasible with least impact to the park is the one that H.R. 2606 would allow: the rehabilitation and use of two currently deteriorated historic airplane hangars on Floyd Bennett Field. If these are used to house the metering station, then neither the 20-foot- tall security structure that would be required around the facility outside of the park nor new construction within the park would be needed. Additionally, the use of these historic hangars on Floyd Bennett Field would allow for operation of the pipeline without impacting the historic landscape, while also providing for long-term care of the structures and providing annual income from rent, which the Secretary would be authorized to retain for infrastructure needs, resource protection, and visitor services at the park.
As passed by the House on February 7, 2012, H.R. 2606 contains provisions to help ensure that the leasing and permitting authorized at Gateway National Recreation Area will be conducted in a way that protects park resources and that revenue derived from the leasing will be retained by the park, consistent with National Park Service law and policy. These are important changes that were made to the bill when it was reported by the House Natural Resources Committee and on the House floor. However, there are two additional amendments we would like to recommend: one to clarify that the equipment housed in the leased hangar will not be subject to both a lease and a permit, and the other to ensure that the National Park Service has the appropriate authority to make any necessary modifications to the lease before renewing it. Proposed language for both of these amendments is attached to this statement
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. I will be happy to answer any questions you or any other committee member may have concerning this bill.
Proposed amendments to H.R. 2606, New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act, as received in the Senate
Page 2, line 18: Strike "natural gas." and insert "natural gas (but not including the metering and regulating station)".
Page 4, lines 14-16: Strike "with any changes to its terms and conditions mutually agreed upon." and insert "upon review, evaluation, and modification, if necessary, of its terms.".