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October 4, 2013

Pipeline plan faces DEC objections

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Planners of the proposed Constitution Pipeline have failed to adequately evaluate existing utility corridors and other alternate routes in proposing a pathway that would take the natural gas transmission system through forests, fields and farmland, according to a state Department of Environmental Conservation official.

In a Sept. 25 letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Secretary Kimberly Bose, Patricia Desnoyers, a DEC lawyer involved in reviewing the pipeline project, requested that the pipeline company be required to “thoroughly analyze alternative routes that predominantly use existing utility corridors and rights of way for all or most of the proposed pipeline route in New York.”

The concerns registered by Desnoyers are similar those registered by the US. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year. Although FERC is the only government agency that can license a pipeline, both DEC and the Army Corps of Engineers play strong roles in the environmental-review process. The DEC has the power to issue or deny permits the project needs to be completed.

And both the DEC and the Army Corps of Engineers are unconvinced that the routing as proposed by the pipeline company was designed with a thorough consideration of alternates that would keep much of the project inside existing rights of way. Desnoyers also indicated that she wants to see documentation that the state Department of Transportation has discouraged placing the pipeline within the I-88 controlled access right of way.

Reacting to the recommendations made by the DEC official, Constitution Pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton said: “We feel strongly that we have extensively explored all options for routing the pipeline in and adjacent to the 1-88 corridor. Construction constraints, along with potential impacts to communities and the environment, would be greater with the I-88 alternative than with the proposed primary route.”

He added: “The application we submitted to FERC clearly supports that conclusion.”

Stockton also noted that the pipeline planners have had ongoing discussions with state DOT officials, indicating that the agency “prefers that the pipeline is not located within the I-88 corridor.”

In order to co-locate the pipeline in the I-88 controlled access areas, the pipeline company would be required by both the state agency and the Federal Highway Administration to show that there are no viable alternative routes, Stockton said.

“Clearly in this case, there are other viable alternative routes,” he said.

However, in the view of Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, an organizer of the grassroots group Stop the Pipeline, the fact that both the state agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have significant reservations with the preferred route suggests the project could be shot down.

“The only reason they want to go through central New York State is so they can frack along the way, and then export the gas via Canada,” said Garti in suggesting the project is a Trojan horse for the drilling industry.

Garti said there are existing routes for sending the gas to the stated destinations of Boston and New York City, but “they want to go to Schoharie County so they can more money by exporting the gas.”

The pipeline company projects that construction could being as early as June 2014 if FERC approves the project. The company also estimates that the construction phase would create 1,300 construction jobs and result in property tax collections of some $13 million for the four counties in New York and the one in Pennsylvania that would be traversed by the 122-mile pipeline.