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October 14, 2013

DEC letter about pipeline gives us pause

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The Daily Star

---- — We have many concerns about whether the proposed Constitution Pipeline is a good idea. Among them, we wonder whether it’s right to give eminent domain powers to a private rather than governmental entity, and we worry about what environmental impacts would be in store for our area.

But, assuming for now that the 122-mile pipeline project will be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the question today is about what route it should take.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation was concerned enough last month to send a letter to FERC, asking it to compel the pipeline company to reconsider its decision to forgo the I-88 corridor.

Patricia Desnoyers, a DEC lawyer involved in reviewing the pipeline project, requested that FERC make the pipeline company “thoroughly analyze alternative routes that predominantly use existing utility corridors and rights of way for all or most of the proposed pipeline route in New York.”

The DEC has the power to issue or deny permits the project needs to be completed. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year also expressed concerns about the route the pipeline will take if developers get their way.

Locally, there have been threats of lawsuits and other protests.

The pipeline developers offered a regional BOCES program more than $25,000 for the right of way for a 30-inch pipeline to run underground on land at the Tech Center campus in Schoharie County.

Charles Dedrick, superintendent of the Albany-Schoharie-Schenectady-Saratoga Board of Cooperative Educational Services, called the plan “a terrible idea,” and BOCES told the developers it doesn’t want their money.

The Cobleskill-Richmondville District school board — representing the largest school district in Schoharie County — voted unanimously to support the BOCES rejection of the pipeline money.

What we would like to know is why the Constitution Pipeline — if built — is eschewing the I-88 option. Is it because it would truly be the most efficient and logical decision … or would it just be cheaper? Will some people in our area lose their property or parts of it to eminent domain so the developers can make a bigger profit?

“We feel strongly that we have extensively explored all options for routing the pipeline in and adjacent to the 1-88 corridor,” said Constitution Pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton in reaction to the DEC letter. “Construction constraints, along with potential impacts to communities and the environment, would be greater with the I-88 alternative than with the proposed primary route.”

We are intrigued that the DEC and the Army Corps of Engineers have taken such an active role in questioning the developers’ decision. The light at the end of this murky tunnel still seems a long way away.