By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star
---- — With the proposed Constitution Pipeline increasingly becoming a hot issue for local elected officials, the Delaware County Board of Supervisors is slated to consider a resolution today that would support the project as long as it brings benefits to local communities and affected landowners.
The pipeline planners’ preferred route for the natural gas transmission system would slice through eight Delaware County towns. An alternative pathway, known as Route M, would run through Otsego County for about 30 miles and leave Delaware County with a much shorter segment.
The resolution suggests the pipeline would have a positive economic impact on Delaware County as it “has the second fastest aging population in New York State and a median household income equal to 60 percent of the state’s median household income.”
The measure also says that the supervisors favor “access to the proposed Constitution Pipeline to establish distribution lines for the benefit of businesses, residents and communities,” and that there would be benefits for the towns where the pipeline is situated.
Harpersfield Town Supervisor James E. Eisel Sr., the chairman of the county board and a Republican, has already come out in favor of the project.
Davenport Town Supervisor Dennis J. Valente, a Democrat, noted that both the preferred route and so-called Route M would have legs through his town. He said he plans to support the resolution not because he backs the pipeline but because if it is approved by the federal government he wants to see benefits for local residents and firms.
Valente said he believes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, if inclined to approve the project, will likely back the company’s primary route over Route M, which largely hugs Interstate 88 with the exception of a run into Davenport. But he questioned whether the planners will be able to convince federal officials the pipeline is vital to the nation’s energy needs.
“I think the pipeline company’s biggest hurdle is to prove that they don’t have capacity in the current gas system,” Valente said. “I’m kind of a prognosticator, and I don’t put this pipeline as having a better than 60 percent chance of making it. There is a very strong and compelling argument at this time to use existing infrastructure.”
A week ago, the Otsego County Board of Representatives passed a resolution endorsing the Route M option after numerous citizens suggested the board should hold off until FERC decided on whether to extend the comment period and hold a scoping hearing close to Oneonta. Supporters of that measure said they had to act before Tuesday, because that was the deadline initially given for public comments.
In Delaware County, Meredith Town Supervisor Keitha Capouya said she is firmly opposed to the Constitution Pipeline and will vote against the resolution today. But she predicted a majority of the panel’s members will endorse the project, with the qualifiers that it benefit local communities.
What she said she believes are the project’s negative environmental consequences outweigh any revenue local governments would gain, and she expressed skepticism towards the estimates of revenue that the Constitution Pipeline has indicated the presence of the infrastructure could generate for local governments.
“For some reason, the allegiance always goes toward the company — and not the people who are damaged,” said Capouya, a Democrat.