The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

February 9, 2013

Pipeline fight must stay within the law

The Daily Star

---- — It was probably only a matter of time before landowners and pipeline surveyors began to clash, putting local law enforcement in the middle. 

After all, we saw plenty of this sort of thing in the 1980s when area residents were fighting the construction of the high-voltage electric transmission line that became known as Marcy South. 

As we have noted before, the parallels between Marcy South and the Constitution Pipeline are striking.   

As with the Marcy South project, the Constitution Pipeline has gotten the blessing of many officials in Delaware County, but many affected landowners are less enthusiastic, to put it mildly. 

When the state Public Service Commission finalized the route of the Marcy South line in 1985, the battles between landowners and the Power Authority of the State of New York touched off in earnest. Many landowners kicked PASNY officials off their land or had them arrested, only to be told that they had no right to do so. 

Three Davenport landowners recently dipped their toes into these murky legal waters last month, when they reported pipeline surveyors for trespassing. 

No arrests were made, because none of the accused refused to leave the properties in question. A spokesman for the pipeline company said that the surveyors must have crossed onto the wrong property by accident. 

“It is our strict policy to only survey properties where we have obtained permission from the property owner, and it is our goal to treat all landowners with respect and honor their decision with regard to granting survey permission,” spokesman Christopher Stockton told The Daily Star.

We hope Stockton is right; that this was just an honest mistake. But too many more honest mistakes like this, and an already-tense situation could get downright ugly. 

Twenty-five years ago, battles of words soon escalated to property damage and threats of bodily harm. In 1986, vandals damaged equipment being used to clear trees to make way for Marcy South. One landowner took up target shooting along the surveyors’ path on his property (he was later ordered by the courts to stop). 

We haven’t seen this type of direct action along the proposed pipeline route — yet. And we hope it won’t come to that. 

The three landowners who filed trespassing reports did the right thing. We only hope this doesn’t become a common occurrence. 

We do not blame landowners who are frustrated by what they see as infringements on their rights. But we cannot condone the tactics that were undertaken in the 1980s to fight Marcy South, either. As the pipeline process moves forward, we urge parties on both sides to respect and uphold the law.