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May 25, 2013

Pipeline planners poised to file

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The planners of the $750 million Constitution Pipeline project say they expect to submit an application for a federal license to build the natural gas transmission system the week of June 10.

While the projected license filing date is well behind the original timetable of sending it to federal regulators last January, a spokesman for Williams Partners, a major investor in the project, said the target for putting the pipeline in service remains what it was originally: March 2015.

According to the pipeline planners, construction of the 120-mile pipeline, if it is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will begin after July 1, 2014.

Last year, the company had projected construction would commence in April 2014.

Even with a shorter time frame to get the pipeline in the ground, Stockton said it remains feasible to complete the natural gas transmission system by March 2015 with what is now a "condensed construction schedule."

He pointed out that the project no longer includes building a new compressor station in Schoharie County, where the proposed new pipeline would connect with two existing pipelines. He said it's possible to condense the amount of time needed to build the pipeline by hiring more crews.

Those crews, known in the construction industry as "spreads," would be working simultaneously at different sites along the pathway, rather than running the pipe, one section at a time, from south to north, Stockton said.

A grassroots group opposed to the licensing of the Constitution Pipeline said it was highly skeptical of the latest information coming from the project planners.

"You can't start six months late and finish six months early," said Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, an organizer for Stop the Pipeline.

She also said: "This schedule also depends on their receiving approval from FERC, which is far from a sure thing."

If the project is approved, about 1,400 laborers would work directly on the installation of the pipeline, Stockton said. An additional 1,000 jobs would result from "spillover activity generated during the building of the pipeline," he said.

While the pipeline planners prepare the FERC license application, they also have to address concerns raised by a number of state and federal agencies, including the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The pipeline company has had to conduct surveys to determine if the pipeline pathway cuts through areas inhabited by such threatened species as timber rattlesnakes, Indiana bats and certain rare plants.

The proposed preferred route of the pipeline would cross Clapper Hollow State Forest in Schoharie County, land that is protected by the state DEC.

Asked what steps the agency is taking to protect the forest, a DEC spokeswoman said in an emailed reply that the company has provided maps to the agency showing various routing alternatives for crossing Melony Hill State Forest in Chenango County and Clapper Hollow State Forest.

"DEC was recently informed that additional temporary work spaces may be required at the edge of (at) least two areas of state forests in Schoharie County," said the spokeswoman, Lori Severino. "DEC has asked Constitution to provide a complete set of maps showing all state forest areas along the proposed route that would be impacted by the project, either permanently or temporarily, so that DEC can perform a a comprehensive review of all proposed crossings and work areas."