COOPERSTOWN — While the deadline for sending federal regulators comments on the possible impacts of the proposed Constitution Pipeline is today, people on both sides of the issue say the debate over the project is likely to rage for months ahead.
Two companies, Williams Partners and Cabot Oil and Gas, have signaled they are willing to pour $750 million into constructing a 121-mile pipeline that would initially move enough natural gas from Pennsylvania to Schoharie County to power three million homes a day in the northeastern U.S.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has asked for comments not only on the project planners’ preferred route for transmitting gas to existing pipeline connections in the the town of Wright, but also for several alternative routes, including one dubbed Route M that hugs Interstate 88.
The debate over the project has pitted pro-growth advocates against environmental activists who say the pipeline would be a catalyst for horizontal shale gas drilling to begin in a region where energy companies already have hundreds of leases with landowners willing to allow their acreage to be tapped for gas.
Over the Columbus Day weekend, FERC received at least three dozen new comments on the project, including many from people who argue it would be environmentally destructive or is unnecessary because of the current supplies of natural gas.
Meredith Town Supervisor Keitha Capouya said she has already sent the FERC one letter stating her opposition to the project, and was sending a second one Monday night even though she wondered how much weight it would be given by the government regulators whose power trumps local zoning laws.
“They’ve ignored things before,” Capouya said. “I imagine they can ignore these, too.”
She said she questions why the federal government is not doing more to encourage small towns to set up their own energy generating stations using alternative forms of power, with networks of smaller scales wind turbines, hydropower stations, solar panels and geothermal energy.