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May 30, 2013

DEC puts limits on pipeline construction

Asserting its jurisdiction over New York’s natural resources, the state Department of Environmental Conservation told federal regulators in a new filing that running the Constitution Pipeline across streams can only occur in a narrow time window because of potential impacts to fish populations.

The filing, coming less than two weeks before the projected date when the pipeline will submit its application for a federal license to build the $750 million system, creates a potential significant hurdle for the planned construction timetable for the 120-mile project.

The pipeline planners have said they expect to have the system operating by March 2015, with construction beginning in the third quarter of 2014.

The only allowable fishery construction window for designated waters is June 15 through Sept. 30, a DEC lawyer, Patricia J. Desnoyers, told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a lengthy filing this week.

She said the proposed pipeline will cross 73 known protected class streams, along with an additional seven protected class streams containing trout.

“NYSDEC maintains strict adherence to in-stream work windows, therefore, all stream crossings, including temporary or permanent installation bridges and pipelines, must comply with appropriate warm and cold-water fishery windows,” Denoyers wrote in the 38-page filing.

While FERC will decide whether a license is awarded to the pipeline planners, the state DEC could have a significant impact on the proposed pathway, which includes taking the pipeline across state forestland as well as the dozens of streams cited by Desnoyers.

“All crossings of streams and wetland must be confirmed with NYSDEC for determinations of regulatory jurisdiction,” the DEC lawyer noted.

An organizer of the grassroots opposition group Stop the Pipeline, Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, praised the DEC for advocating for the protection of the streams.

“DEC has an obligation to the people of the state of New York to protect our air, water and wildlife,” Garti said. “We are proud they told the pipeline company that it cannot speed up construction by breaking the rules. Our resources are more important than their short-term profits.”

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