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July 18, 2013

State sees tight window for pipeline construction

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — COOPERSTOWN — A state Department of Environmental Conservation official informed federal regulators Wednesday that the operators of proposed Constitution Pipeline will have to secure several state and federal permits and adhere to a strict construction window that would limit the period when they can install the natural gas transmission line near streams.

The pipeline operators will need to obtain a Water Quality Certificate from the DEC, a Stormwater Permit for Construction Activities and an air quality permit for compressor stations, said DEC attorney Patricia Desnoyers. Her comment was filed on the eve of today’s deadline for submitting requests to become official intervenors in the matter.

The statement was sent to the Federal Energy Regulator Commission, which as of late Wednesday had received more than 400 requests for intervenor status in just the last two weeks.

The overwhelming majority of those becoming intervenors — a status which gives them legal standing in the regulatory review, allowing them to mount legal challenges — have signaled they are staunchly opposed to the construction of the 122-mile pipeline. The pipe, 30 inches in diameter and run underground in most places, would stretch from northeastern Pennsylvania to Schoharie County and cut through Chenango and Delaware counties along the way.

“NYSDEC maintains strict adherence to in-stream work windows and all stream crossings, including temporary and permanent installation bridges and pipelines, must comply with appropriate warm and cold-water fishery windows,” Desnoyers wrote.

The fact that both the DEC and the state Attorney General’s office have become intervenors in the federal license application that the pipeline planners are seeking is bound to put added pressure on FERC to closely scrutinize both the agencies’ and the public’s concerns with the project, said Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, an organizer for Stop the Pipeline.

“The people who live here do so by choice — for the rural lifestyle, clean air, pure water and abundant wildlife,” Garti said. “They understand this pipeline will lead to an industrialization of the area, and they are not going to give up their land — and everything else they love about country living — without a fight.”

Advocates for the pipeline, who include U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., business organizations and labor unions such as Teamsters Local 693, have said the pipeline will create hundreds of jobs and provide a new abundant source for natural gas, a form of energy that is cheaper than petroleum.

“This project will boost the economy not only locally but throughout New York state,” Bob Firmstone, the secretary treasurer of Local 693, said in a comment to FERC on Wednesday.

Opponents of the project said 35 percent of the property owners along the pipeline route have refused to allow land surveyors for the pipeline company onto their parcels.

Stop the Pipeline announced that it will be presented in the FERC proceedings by the Pace Law School Environmental Litigation Clinic. The nonprofit group Earthjustice, meanwhile, has agreed to represent the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Catskill Mountainkeeper, among other groups.

Critics of the project argue it will lure natural gas drillers to set up operations near the pipeline. The pipeline planers, however, have said the system is only intended to bring gas already being extracted in northeastern Pennsylvania to two existing pipelines in the Schoharie County town of Wright.