By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star
---- — COOPERSTOWN — In a new filing with federal regulators, the planners of the Constitution Pipeline suggest that safeguards have been designed to protect the public from any threat of terror targeting natural gas transmissions systems.
“The proposed pipeline will be buried, and pipeline pressure will be monitored 24 hours per day by Constitution’s Gas Control office,” said Tim Powell, a natural resources manager for Williams Partners, the company that would head the operations of the pipeline should it be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“Operations personnel will patrol the pipeline and appurtenant facilities on a routine basis,” Powell added in the report, which represented the pipeline planners’ official response to numerous comments made at recent environmental scoping hearings.
Powell also said that the gas industry, along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “has been diligent in taking steps to safeguard critical facilities against terrorist threats and to ensure the ability to recover from any incident on an expedited basis.”
He said Constitution Pipeline “cannot provide additional information regarding the vulnerability of the pipeline to terrorist attack or the measures undertaken to counter attacks. Divulging this information in the public domain potentially could place the pipeline system at risk by facilitating attempts to circumvent Constitution’s safety management program.”
The vulnerability of pipelines has been a concern for the Department of Homeland Security. Earlier this year, the federal agency alerted the natural gas industry to the fact that its computer networks were the target of a “gas pipeline sector cyber intrusion campaign,” the Christian Science Monitor reported in May.
At that time, the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team — an arm of Homeland Security — reported that its “analysis of the malware and artifacts associated with these cyber attacks has positively identified this activity as related to a single campaign from a single source.” The attack, the agency said, involved “spear-phishing,” which was described as an effort by hackers to invade corporate computer networks.
The filing by Constitution Pipeline addressed a broad range of criticisms leveled at the project by owners of parcels along the pipeline’s proposed route as well as environmental activists who argued it posed a threat to waterways, farms, forests and wildlife.
Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, one of the organizers of the grassroots group Stop the Pipeline, said the document should be viewed by FERC as “technical spin” from a company “trying to diminish the validity of the comments” registered by those opposed to the project.
“They should do their own job and not let the developer downplay all the issues,” Garti said of FERC.
Powell, addressing concerns that the pipeline would threaten public water supplies, assured FERC that the route has been shifted away from the Cobleskill Reservoir.
He also said that “Constitution will not practice widespread, indiscriminate use or aerial application of herbicides. However, it should be noted that limited and controlled use of herbicides can be a sustainable and environmentally preferable method for control of invasive and woody species vegetation along a pipeline ROWs (right-of-ways) in appropriate circumstances.”
The 30-inch, 121-mile pipeline would run natural gas extracted in northeastern Pennsylvania to two existing interstate pipelines in the town of Wright in Schoharie County. From there, the gas would be sent to the Boston and New York City markets, where it provide energy to about three million customers, according to the pipeline planners.
If the $750 million project is approved, construction would begin in 2014, and the line would become operational in March 2015, the planners have said.