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April 13, 2013

FERC should agree to further study

The Daily Star

---- — Pipeline?

Or pipe dream?

As if the proposed Constitution Pipeline were not controversial enough, given environmental concerns, the issue of eminent domain and suspicions about the ultimate use of the 122-mile project, recently the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has gotten involved.

The corps is urging federal regulators to hold off on approving any pipeline route until it can study all parcels of land for potential impact on waterways.

“Prior to making a permit decision, the USACE will need field delineations of all parcels proposed to be impacted by the project,” Kevin Bruce, the project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a letter. “… The USACE respectfully requests that FERC also defer a decision on the project until all parcels are delineated.”

This was big news for those active in what appears to be a growing movement to prevent the pipeline. The pipeline must get a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers if it is going to cross streams and wetlands. Anything that delays construction is perceived as helpful for those who might worry that their land may be obtained against their will by virtue of eminent domain.

It’s also important for environmentalists and others who are opposed to anything that has to do with hydrofracking. FERC is the agency that will decide whether the pipeline can be constructed, and, if approved, determine the pathway it should take to send shale gas extracted in northeastern Pennsylvania to two existing pipelines in Schoharie County.

“As we’ve said from the beginning, we are not powerless, and this is not a done deal,” said Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, one of the organizers of a group called Stop the Pipeline. “It is particularly refreshing to have the support of a federal agency, like the Army Corps of Engineers, in this environmental review.”

While backers of the $750 million project insist that the pipeline would not harm the environment, we only have to look at the recent major oil spill in Arkansas to realize that accidents do happen. We have also been uncomfortable with the concept of using eminent domain on a private rather than public project.

While we are not terribly concerned that the pipeline would — as some opponents suggest — promote fracking in our area, we believe that despite the assurances of those backing the project, the lure of selling pipeline natural gas overseas for big-time profits will eventually be irresistible.

We urge FERC to take its time and agree to the request by the Army Corps of Engineers to do a thorough study before making any final decision.