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December 11, 2013

Pipeline planners sidestep BOCES campus

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The routing of the proposed Constitution Pipeline has been adjusted to keep it from running through an area on the campus of a regional BOCES school where students are taught to use such heavy equipment as bulldozers and backhoes.

The route change was noted in newly released documents that have been filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that controls the fate of the controversial $683 million project.

The largely underground transmission system, if approved by the federal regulators, would send shale gas extracted in Pennsylvania through a pipe 30 inches in diameter to two existing pipelines in the Schoharie County town of Wright.

The proposal to have the pipeline slice across the campus was vehemently opposed by the Albany-Schoharie-Schenectady-Saratoga Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Its officials said in September that it made no sense to them to have the pipeline run a few feet underground in an area where students are using excavating equipment.

Christopher Stockton, a spokesman for the pipeline company, said the project’s planners met with BOCES representatives recently. “As a result of that meeting, we worked with our engineers to make adjustments to the proposed pipeline route so that it completely avoids the BOCES equipment training area,” Stockton said Tuesday in an emailed response to questions from The Daily Star.

“We continue to make tweaks to the route based on feedback we receive from landowners and other agencies,” he wrote.

The pipeline company has been offering financial payments to owners of parcels along the proposed route if they agree to easements that would allow construction crews to install the pipe on those properties.

Hundreds of landowners along the approximately 90-mile stretch that the pipeline would run in New York have refused to allow surveys to be conducted on their property. The BOCES administrators had spurned the pipeline company’s offer of more than $25,000 for an easement on its property in the town of Schoharie.

Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, one of the organizers of the grassroots group Stop the Pipeline, called the route adjustments being made by the Constitution Pipeline inadequate.

“It’s still in bad places,” said Garti,. She accused the pipeline planners of ignoring encouragement from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to co-locate the transmission system along existing rights of way for utility and highway projects.

“Little tweaks are meaningless,” she said.

Another component of the Constitution Pipeline project involves expanding an existing compressor station in the town of Wright. This week, the Schoharie County Planning Commission, spurred by Robert Nied of the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities, directed the town of Wright to conduct a more comprehensive environmental review of the compressor station’s impact.

Nied, a lawyer who is also aligned with Stop the Pipeline, said he believes the gas industry is targeting the region for eventual drilling, and the pipeline could become an eventual incentive to lure the industry to set up drill pads nearby.

In its latest response to FERC, the pipeline company said it was taking steps to address concerns regarding the impact of the project on organic farms. Some farmers have voiced fears that they would lose their organic certification because the area along the pipeline would be periodically treated with herbicides to stop vegetation from growing above the buried pipe.

Stockton, responding to a question about the organic farms, wrote: “A special construction plan will be developed in cooperation with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to outline the steps Constitution Pipeline would take to protect organic farms along the construction route to ensure they keep their organic certification.

The pipeline project is strongly supported by business groups and labor unions.