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Local News

February 13, 2014

U.S. agency downplays pipeline's side effects

The Constitution Pipeline project got a significant boost Wednesday when federal regulators concluded that its “adverse environmental impacts” could be reduced to “less-than-significant levels” through an array of mitigation” steps suggested in a draft environmental impact statement.

The voluminous statement, released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, triggers a public comment period that will conclude April 6. A series of public comment meetings will be held starting March 31.

The draft document addressed two related projects — the pipeline and the construction of a transfer compressor facility adjacent to an existing compressor station in the Schoharie town of Wright that is owned by Iroquois Gas. The Constitution Pipeline would connect to two existing pipelines in Wright, the Iroquois pipeline and the Tennessee Gas pipeline, allowing the gas to flow to markets in the Boston and New York city regions, according to project planners.

FERC’s draft environmental statement, issued by the agency’s staff and not its commissioners, said suggestions to co-locate the pipeline within the existing corridor for Interstate 88 were reviewed. It concluded that placing the pipeline within the I-88 median was “not technically feasible” and said locating it in the highway corridor was “not preferable” to the 124.4-mile route being advocated by the pipeline company.

FERC said it also examined other ways of transmitting the gas that would entail co-locating the project with existing pipeline infrastructure. It cited a variety of concerns in concluding that the Constitution Pipeline project would have either lesser impacts or was preferable to those alternatives for a variety of reasons.

The federal agency has been assessing the controversial proposal using the standards spelled out in the National Environmental Policy Act. FERC is expected to decide whether to license the project being touted by a consortium of energy companies led by Williams Partners of Houston, which holds a 41-percent stake in the Constitution Pipeline.

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