COOPERSTOWN — In the first concrete sign that potential legal action hovers over the proposed Constitution Pipeline project, the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society says it has retained the public interest law firm Earthjustice to represent it in fighting the natural gas transmission system.
The local chapter of the National Audubon Society said it will intervene in the review being conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that will determine if the construction of the 122-mile pipeline is in the public interest.
If federal regulators give the project planners a license to build the pipeline, the Constitution Pipeline would acquire eminent domain authority that would allow it to obtain easements to tracts whose owners have signaled that they strongly oppose having the infrastructure placed on their land.
The local Audubon group’s co-president, Andrew Mason, said the organization has concluded the project would fragment the habitats for threatened bird species and have other harmful environmental impacts.
“Many species already in decline will suffer further losses from this corridor that will break up their breeding territories and allow predators and nest parasites into the forests,” Mason said.
Earthjustice is the same legal firm enlisted by opponents of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas to fight to uphold the home rule authority of local towns to ban gas drilling within their borders.
The Audobon group’s request for intervenor status comes amid a flurry of activity by environmental activists to convince landowners and others residing in the region to submit similar requests to FERC no later than the July 17 cutoff for such applications. Over the past two weeks, dozens of individuals have requested intervenor status, and more are expected to follow suit this week, said Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, an organizer for the grassroots group Stop the Pipeline.
Intervenor status makes those individuals and organizations officially legal parties to the case before FERC, Garti said.