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Local News

August 10, 2012

Feds ask pipeline planners to eye existing routes

COOPERSTOWN -- A federal agency Thursday directed the Constitution Pipeline planners to determine the feasibility and costs of locating the natural gas transmission system within four existing routes that move natural gas.

The existing pipelines mentioned by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are operated by the Millenium Pipeline Co., Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., Dominion Transmission Inc. and Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Inc.

The directive was sent by Pamela Romano of FERC's Division of Pipeline Certificates to William H. Hammons, team leader for the Constitution Pipeline. The venture was launched by Williams Partners and Cabot Oil and Gas to run natural gas to the Boston and New York City regions via a new pipe, which would run from Susquehanna County, Pa., to a Schoharie County terminus.

The suggestion of having the Pennsylvania shale gas reach the Eastern Seaboard through existing pipes had been made to FERC last month by a Constitution Pipeline opponent, Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith. She said she believes the project is unnecessary and would end up taking in gas from hydrofracked New York wells. The pipeline planners have repeatedly said the latter scenario is not under consideration, insisting the system is for gas from Pennsylvania.

Christopher Stockton, a spokesman for the pipeline project, said in an email that the pipelines cited by FERC as potential alternates "are fully subscribed and currently serving other needs." "Fully subscribed" is an industry term denoting a particular pipeline is under contract to handle its capacity based on its compression level.

Stockton also noted in his response to a query from The Daily Star that "the Constitution Pipeline project is unique in that there is no pipeline currently connecting supplies in north and central Pennsylvania to the existing pipeline infrastructure in northern New York (Iroquois and Tennessee pipelines)."

Garti said that the alternate routes, even though they are not a straight shot to the Boston and New York City markets, should still be given strong consideration by FERC. She said Williams and Cabot could still connect to them with shorter stretches of pipe and could simply add compressors to allow for them to handle more volume.

"They are not supposed to cut new pathways through virgin territories if there is alternative available to co-locate the pipeline," Garti said. She argued the FERC directive suggests the project may now be in jeopardy.

On a related front, Joseph Mirabito, chief executive officer of Mirabito Holdings, said efforts continue to develop a natural gas distribution network in the area of Sidney and Coventry by acquiring access to rights-of-way for the installation of 6-inch plastic piping that could eventually take gas from the Constitution Pipeline.

Last year, some media reports referred to that project as the "Leatherstocking Pipeline." Mirabito said it never was intended to be a pipeline, but rather a local distribution network involving a pipe a fraction of the size of what would be used in the Constitution Pipeline.

Mirabito said the volume of gas that could be available to such a network would be far greater if the Constitution Pipeline can be tapped locally. Only a limited amount of gas would have been available had the network had to rely on local conventional gas wells, he said.

That project is being spearheaded by Leatherstocking Gas Co., which was formed by Mirabito's company and Corning Gas.

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