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June 14, 2013

Mayor offers land for pipeline stage

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A Schoharie County parcel of land being eyed as a staging area for heavy equipment for the Constitution Pipeline is owned by a construction company in which Cobleskill Mayor Mark Galasso is a principal.

Galasso and his brother, Martin Galasso Jr., oversee Lancaster Development, which owns a property known as the former Zabatta Farm, off State Route 7 in the town of Richmondville.

Mayor Galasso acknowledged in a telephone interview with The Daily Star on Thursday that his company would allow the Constitution Pipeline to store its equipment there in the event the controversial project is approved by federal regulators and secures all necessary permits.

The arrangement was criticized by Robert Nied, director of the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities. Nied noted the property is on the primary school bus route for the Cobleskill-Richmondville School District and is close to the high school, whose track team members run along the shoulder of the road that could be used for large trucks in the construction of the pipeline.

Nied also noted that Galasso’s company has been involved in supporting the natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania and that Galasso has been an enthusiastic advocate of both the pipeline project and hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

“It’s always a concern when public officials have a`financial connection to an industry that wants to engage in some activity in the vicinity of their community,” said Nied.

Nied is affiliated with a group called Stop the Pipeline that has urged owners of parcels along the proposed pipeline pathway to refuse to allow land surveys by the pipeline company.

Galasso didn’t mince words in responding to the concerns raised by Nied, saying, “He can kiss my (butt). It’s my property, and I’ll do what I want with it.”

The mayor said Nied “has no credibility whatsoever” and has a history of making what he characterized as reckless and unfounded claims against other individuals.

Told that Nied argued that using the property as a staging area for the pipeline would jeopardize the safety of school children, Galasso said. “He’s ridiculous. He’s an idiot. He’s anti-everything. He doesn’t want wind, he doesn’t want gas, he doesn’t want fuel, he doesn’t want nukes. He just wants what he wants.”

Galasso said the only activities on his property that would facilitate the construction of the pipeline would involve the storage and maintenance of equipment. He emphasized there would be no construction work there.

Lancaster Development is described on the company’s website as a $60 million heavy construction firm that has grown steadily since it was founded in 1947 by August Galasso, the great uncle of Mayor Galasso and Martin Galasso Jr.

Mayor Galasso said the land in Richmondville will only be rented to the pipeline company if it is in full compliance with all state and federal regulations.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an agency that has sweeping powers over proposed pipeline projects, is expected to act next year on the application for a license to construct the 122-mile natural gas transmission system.

The line would run from Susquehanna County, Pa., and cross parts of Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie counties before ending in the Schoharie town of Wright.

The Daily Star reported on Wednesday that the pipeline planners are also proposing to locate a staging area off state Route 7 in the town of Maryland, near Exit 18 of Interstate 88. The Maryland parcel is owned by Worcester Town Justice Alton Travis III.