By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Forty-foot sections of galvanized steel pipe that would be used for the proposed Constitution Pipeline have already been transported to upstate New York even though the controversial natural gas transmission system has yet to be approved by federal regulators.
The piping, which is 30 inches in diameter, is being stored at a rail yard in the Albany County town of Guilderland, said Christopher Stockton, the spokesman for the planners of the 124-mile pipeline that would send natural gas produced in Susquehanna County, Pa., to two existing pipelines in the Schoharie County town of Wright.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is now taking public comment on a draft environmental impact statement for the underground pipeline project. The agency is expected to determine the pipeline’s fate in early September.
Stockton, employed by Houston-based Williams Partners, the lead investor in the Constitution Pipeline, said the pipeline developers want to move ahead as rapidly as possible in the event the project gets the green light from FERC.
“It’s prudent planning on our part,” he said. The production of the pipe at plants in Pennsylvania and Florida, he said, “is totally independent from the schedule of the permitting” process controlled by the FERC.
The project would use five staging areas in the vicinity of the route for heavy equipment construction equipment. One is located near Interstate 88 Exit 18 in the town of Maryland, and another is owned by the Lancaster Development Co. in Richmondville.
About three miles of pipe - or 422 sections - has been delivered to the rail yard by way of rail and truck. Stockton said. That represents about 2.5 percent of the total length of piping that will be needed to complete the project.
The pipeline has stirred up considerable opposition from a grassroots group calling itself Stop the Pipeline, an assemblage of landowners who don’t want the transmission line to traverse their parcels and local anti-drilling activists. Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, an organizer for the group and an environmental lawyer, said the pipeline planners are trying to quell the concerns of investors nervous about whether landowner opposition will persuade FERC to reject the project.
“If they were confident they wouldn’t have to pull this publicity stunt,” she said. “They are posturing to make it look like this is a done deal, when it’s not.”
The project, she added, must also win the blessing of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Those two agencies are not in the pocket of the gas industry,” Garti said. “And it’s not so clear that even FERC is going to approve the project.”
Meanwhile, the project manager for the Constitution Pipeline, Matt Swift, is scheduled to meet with Amphenol Aerospace executives at the company headquarters in Sidney today for an announcement relating to the pipeline.
Sidney Mayor Andy Matviak told The Daily Star that Amphenol is expected to announce that it will be getting gas from a feeder pipeline that would run from the Constitution Pipeline to the plant.
“This is very exciting for us because it will help both our local residents and our business people,” Matviak said.
The pipeline would traverse part of the village - at 3,900 people, the most populous in Delaware County - in the vicinity of Pine Hill, the mayor said.
Also expected to attend the press announcement are: James Eisel, the chairman of the Delaware County Board of Supervisors, Joseph P. Mirabito, a board member of Leathestocking Gas Company, Amphenol Vice President Gary Anderson and Bruce J. Hodges, president of Local Lodge 1529 of the International Association of Machinist & Aerospace Workers.