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April 4, 2014

BOCES to feds: Pipeline plan would ruin campus

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Capital Region BOCES, which operates the Career and Technical School in Richmondville, has filed a legal brief with federal regulators that sharply criticizes the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Constitution Pipeline as “insufficient” and “inadequate.”

In a motion to intervene in the proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an attorney for BOCES argued that the DEIS fails to spell out the mitigation measures that would be taken to minimize impacts to the 63-acre campus that would be traversed by the pipeline route.

The recommendation by the FERC staffers who authored the DEIS that the concerns regarding impacts to the campus be “worked out’ prior to the actual construction violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the lawyer, John Privitera of Albany, said in the legal papers.

“The school is not for sale,” Privitera wrote. “The pipeline company proposes to take, through condemnation proceedings, 5.6 acres of the approximately 23 acres of usable outdoor classroom area. The pipeline company’s forceful taking of 20 to 25 percent of the school’s outdoor classroom area will destroy the curriculum, as there is simply no substitute for the teaching acreage that will be lost.”

Whether the pipeline’s construction is authorized will be determined by FERC’s five presidentially-appointed commissioners. A decision is expected later this year.

The intervention motion from the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services came in the final days of the comment period for the DEIS. FERC has announced that all comments must be submitted by Monday, although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the U.S. Interior Department have asked for an extension of the comment period, citing the complexity of the data in the DEIS.

On Thursday, Trout Unlimited, a fisheries conservation group, also asked for an extension, calling the DEIS incomplete and insufficient. Among the information that should be included in the DEIS but was not, Trout Unlimited representatives said, are “site-specific blasting plans that include protocols for in-water blasting and the protection of aquatic resources and habitats.”

The pipeline project has been endorsed by several major labor unions, Amphenol Aerospace, the majority of the Delaware County Board of Supervisors and several local business groups. Leatherstocking Gas Co., formed from a partnership between Corning Gas Co. and Mirabito Holdings Inc., is also urging the construction of the pipeline, saying it has hopes to connect Amphenol and some local communities with natural gas supplied by the pipeline.

Leatherstocking has asked that the state DEC’s request for a time extension be denied, noting that the state Public Service Commission would have jurisdiction over local distribution systems, not the DEC, and pointing out that the DEC’s concerns could be “fully explored” in future proceedings before the PSC.

The town of Davenport, in its filing with FERC, said it opposes the construction of the pipeline, noting it would traverse 128 properties in the town and pose a “significant hazard.” The town board also said that the pipeline would “substantially reduce Davenport’s tax base,” because property values would drop for impacted parcels, forcing higher taxes for the remaining properties.

So far, nearly 500 individuals and organizations have filed for intervenor status with FERC. A FERC spokeswoman, Tamara Young-Allen, said her agency would still review and consider comments even after the stated deadline of Monday. No decision has been made regarding the formal requests for an extension of the comment period, she said.

Young-Allen recalled that in one pipeline project from the 1990s, the Independence Pipeline in Ohio, about 7,000 intervenor requests were filed. While FERC approved the project, the applicant did not go forward with it, she recalled.

The major stakeholder in the Constitution Pipeline is Williams Partners of Houston. Joining Williams in the project are Cabot Oil & Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas and WGL Holdings.