Pipeline fuels natural gas controversy
The word “frack” showed up in The Daily Star only a handful of times in 2012. Instead, the buzzword of choice was “pipeline,” a keyword that returns search results too numerous to tabulate. But at the heart of it all is still natural gas — the subject that has dominated local news coverage, to a great extent, for the better part of four years now.
And a lack of action by state officials this year all but guaranteed that natural gas will be a hot topic for 2013, if not beyond. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, tasked in 2008 with crafting a set of regulations to govern horizontal hydraulic fracturing, is still at work on the task, under the guidance of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Meanwhile, leaseholders and energy companies alike are growing antsy, wondering if Cuomo is, as the New York Times suggests, “consigning fracking to oblivion.”
Also in limbo are the scores of fracking bans and moratoriums enacted by towns, villages and cities across the state. Locally, a zoning law that would effectively ban natural gas development in the town of Middlefield has been center stage in the legal fight over “home rule” since the town was sued by dairy farmer Jennifer Huntington. Although the town won an important ruling this year from the state Supreme Court, the case — and the future of municipalities’ ability to ban fracking — will eventually be decided in the court of appeals.
As fracking took a back seat, a new battle began to be waged in the region over the proposed Constitution Pipeline. The large-diameter pipeline project, announced early this year, would transport natural gas from Pennsylvania to a compressor station in Schoharie, traveling through Chenango, Delaware and Otsego counties along the way.
While many anti-frack activists took up the pipeline cause easily enough, the project also created some strange bedfellows. Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller supported a ban on hydrofracking within city limits, but spoke in favor of the pipeline at a public hearing in October. Local business groups, including the fledgling Citizens Voices, have spoken in favor of the project, arguing that it will bring much-needed natural gas service to the region. But Cabot Williams, the company behind the project, has faced staunch and vocal opposition from landowners along its proposed route through the region.