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Here's How You Can Help Stop the Atlantic Bridge Pipeline

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Here's How You Can Help Stop the Atlantic Bridge Pipeline
Spectra Energy

By Kimberly Ong

New York State is poised to make a decision on the Atlantic Bridge Project, a natural gas pipeline that would expand the existing Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline system, a vast 1,100 miles-long pipeline system that traverses New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.


While natural gas pipelines are largely subject to federal approval, there is one tool that states can use to block pipelines that cross their borders—section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

The Atlantic Bridge is a serious threat to water quality, wildlife, trout streams and other habitats, as well as to air quality in the Hudson Valley region of New York. In New York State alone, the pipeline would directly harm 21 streams (three of which are protected trout streams), 11 acres of forests and more than 10 acres of wetlands in the state.

The entire project is sited to be built within the Hudson River watershed and New York City drinking water supply watershed, which provides drinking water to more than eight million residents of the city and surrounding areas. Any impact to water quality from this proposed pipeline has the potential to impair the drinking water supply of millions of New Yorkers.

Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, states have the power to issue or deny certification ("401 certification") to natural gas pipelines that are sited within their borders. If the applicants of the pipeline fail to show that it will meet state water quality standards, states must deny certification to the pipeline and the pipeline can't go forward in that state.

The New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) should find that the sponsors of the pipeline, Algonquin Gas Transmission and Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, have failed to show that Atlantic Bridge would comply with state water quality standards.

As mentioned earlier, however, the Atlantic Bridge Project is just one segment of the larger Algonquin Pipeline Expansion Project, which also includes the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline and the Access Northeast pipeline. DEC must evaluate Atlantic Bridge in the context of these two other related projects—indeed, DEC is mandated by statute to take into account the cumulative impacts of the entire project when evaluating whether the project should get 401 certification.

And the effect of these three projects is greater than the sum of its parts—while the effects of a single pipeline crossing a water body may be reversible, multiple pipeline crossings can have long-term and irreversible impacts on water quality and riparian life.

Altogether, the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion Project would add more than 165 miles of new natural gas pipeline, cross 349 water bodies, harm more than 300 acres of wetlands and more than 950 acres of forest. It would also cross three drinking water supply systems that supply all of New York City with drinking water. Too much is at risk here to allow this pipeline to go forward.

People's Climate March, Washington, DC, April 29, 2017Kimberly Ong

Gov. Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos have shown exceptional leadership in moving New York State beyond fossil fuels and towards clean energy—in 2015, the state took the courageous and forward-looking step to ban fracking across the entire state. Since then, it has denied 401 certification to two other natural gas pipelines that are smaller than the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion Project: Constitution pipeline and Northern Access pipeline. NRDC has defended DEC's Constitution decision in court, and is prepared to do the same for Northern Access. The time is ripe to take a stand against the Atlantic Bridge Project, too.

Call Gov. Cuomo and request that he deny the 401 certification for Atlantic Bridge: 518-474-8390

Kimberly Ong is staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

Financial institutions in New York state will now have to consider the climate-related risks of their planning strategies. Ramy Majouji / WikiMedia Commons

By Brett Wilkins

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