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Reporter's Notebook

November 10, 2012

DEC weighs in on proposed gas pipeline

In an 11th-hour comment filed with federal regulators, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has called for an assessment of “cumulative environmental impacts” from potential shale gas drilling operations along the route of the proposed Constitution Pipeline.

The official cutoff date for environmentally-related “scoping” comments on the $750 million pipeline project was Friday. However, officials have said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will continue to accept subsequent letters it receives regarding the natural gas transmission system.

The comment from DEC was sent Wednesday on behalf of the agency by one of its lawyers, Patricia Desnoyers.

Desnoyers stated in her six-page letter that FERC must evaluate “whether the pipeline could reasonably serve as a collector line for additional supply from New York Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.”

Desnoyers went on to note that the planned pipeline route — running from Susquehanna County, Pa., to the town of Wright in Schoharie County — “has the potential for development of natural gas extraction” from both the Marcellus and Utica formations.

One of the organizers of the grassroots group that has formed to fight the project, Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, said the DEC comment has “huge” implications.

“They have demanded a cumulative impact statement that incorporates a whole buildout of hyrdrofracking throughout this area,” said Garti, a law school student who pressed FERC for the very type of analysis that the DEC now wants the federal agency to conduct.

She pointed out that if the pipeline project moves forward, DEC will be asked to approve several aspects of the pipeline. She said the fact that the agency is now on record as urging FERC to undertake a full review of the environmental impacts of nearby shale gas drilling activities gives the federal regulators little choice but to accede to the state agency’s request for such an evaluation.

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