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Local News -

October 25, 2012

Sparks fly at local pipeline hearing

In an auditorium packed with opponents of hydraulic fracturing, Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller drew hoots and boos Wednesday night when he contended there is “no connection” between plans to build the $750 million Constitution pipeline and the controversy over shale gas drilling.

Speaking at the fourth and final federal scoping hearing on the pipeline project, Miller was interrupted several times by jeers as he tried to defend the proposed natural gas transmission system, arguing it has been unfairly entwined with the controversy over hydrofracking.

Urging his hecklers to let him speak, he insisted: “Pipelines are safe — they pose no threats to our lakes.”

Miller, noting he personally opposes fracking, said he backs the pipeline because he believes it will create jobs and make low-cost natural gas available to the region. He also said he believes the pipeline would be “less intrusive” than Interstate 88.

But in the first hour and 40 minutes of the hearing held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center, Miller was the lone voice in favor of the pipeline.

Before numerous landowners who own property that would potentially by traversed by the pipeline argued it would damage the environment and hurt their property values, several local elected officials registered their opposition to the project.

“It may be completely unnecessary to start with,” contended Town of Otsego Board Member Julie Huntsman. She called on FERC to “do due diligence” in examining whether existing pipelines could carry the gas to the locales where the pipeline planners — Williams Partners and Cabot Oil and Gas — say they want to send it: the Boston and New York City markets.

Sharply disagreeing with Miller’s claims, Otsego County Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, the new deputy chairman of the county Democratic Committee, told the FERC panel that he sees the project as “inexorably tied to fracking and liquified natural gas export.”

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