STATEMENT OF DR. HERBERT C. FROST, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, NATURAL RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON 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.
SEPTEMBER 15, 2011
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. H.R. 2606 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to allow the construction of natural gas pipeline facilities in the Gateway National Recreation Area.
The Department supports H.R. 2606 with some amendments to refine the resource protection and lease rent language and to provide a technical amendment. We look forward to working with the sponsor and the committee on revising the bill.
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. H.R. 2606 would authorize the Secretary to allow for a natural gas pipeline right-of-way to pass through Gateway National Recreation Area. Further it allows for 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 NPS believes the metering station and required security structures, the approximate size of a football field with 20-foot high walls, would impact park resources, in particular, the park viewshed.
The option of constructing a new facility within the park also causes impacts. New construction for pipeline facilities within the park would not meet the NPS goals of reducing infrastructure and being fiscally responsible for existing facilities. Floyd Bennett Field and its associated buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places as an 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 rehabilitation and use of two currently deteriorated historic airplane hangars on Floyd Bennett Field. If utilized to house the metering station, the 20-foot tall security structure required around the facility outside of the park or new construction within the park would not 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 via rent, which the Secretary would be authorized to retain for use in the park.
This concludes my prepared remarks, Mr. Chairman. I will be happy to answer any questions you or any other committee member may have concerning this bill.