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February 20, 2013

As pipeline filing date nears, many shun survey

By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star

---- — Roughly a third of the landowners along the 123-mile stretch that would be traversed by the proposed Constitution Pipeline have withheld permission to its developers to have their land surveyed, according to the company’s latest filing with federal regulators.

Constitution officials advised the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a letter Tuesday that they’ve gained permission to conduct the surveys from 63.7 percent of landowners along the preferred route.

The report also showed a significant survey refusal rate in the Cobleskill area. When asked to allow surveys of their property for the so-called Alternative Route H — a potential pipeline spur that would run just west of the termination point in Wright — nearly 37 percent of landowners refused to grant access.

Pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton told The Daily Star that Route H is now the only alternative pathway that remains under “active consideration” by the project’s designers.

He said the 36.8 percent of the Route H parcel owners who have refused surveys translates into 25 property owners out of the 68 who own parcels along that spur.

Stockton said information pertaining to all the alternative routes studied — including Alternative Route M, which ran near the Interstate 88 corridor — will still be sent to FERC when the company files its application for a license to build the natural gas transmission system. The application is expected to be filed this spring.

Tuesday’s report was issued by Timothy Powell, manager of natural resources for the pipeline company. He said in the firm’s monthly pre-filing status report that 26.1 percent of the property owners along the preferred route have denied permission to the surveyors while the company is “addressing landowner concerns” with 7.5 percent of the owners.

“Constitution continues to make notice to landowners as it updates the preferred route, access routes and alternatives that are being considered for the preferred alignment,” Powell wrote on behalf of the project, a joint venture of Williams Partners, Cabot Oil and Gas and Piedmont Natural Gas.

He added: “Constitution is actively working with individual landowners to address their concerns regarding routing on their property as access is granted.”

Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, one of the organizers of a grassroots opposition group called Stop the Pipeline, said the new survey permission rates show that pipeline opponents are having an impact.

“The landowners are understanding that they’re taken advantage of by a corporation,” Garti said.

She said her analysis of the pipeline company’s own statistics suggests that about 36 percent of the landowners are refusing the surveys. “Everyone who is not saying ‘yes’ is saying ‘no,’” she said. She called the level of resistance “an insurmountable problem” for the pipeline developers.

Garti also contended that many of the landowners who have permitted surveys are opposed to the pipeline project, and resent the fact the pipeline company could end up with eminent domain rights that would empower it to build the pipeline on property whose owners are opposed to its construction.