The number of landowners who have refused to allow representatives of the proposed Constitution Pipeline to survey their property has increased by more than 40 percent in one month, according to the company’s latest filing with federal regulators.
According to the company’s Aug. 16 correspondence to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 22.4 percent of property owners along the natural gas transmission system’s preferred route have denied access to land survey crews.
One month earlier, the percentage of parcel owners spurning the company’s survey requests stood at 15.6 percent, suggesting opposition to the project among the landowners has grown significantly in just a matter of weeks.
Project spokesman Christopher Stockton noted the fact that the latest filing from the company shows 64.8 percent of the landowners along the preferred route have granted access to the surveyors.
That level of participation has increased only marginally from the July filing, when the company told FERC that 63.8 percent of the landowners were going along with the survey.
The 121-mile preferred route for bringing natural gas from Susquehanna County, Pa., to Schoharie County traverses parts of Delaware, Schoharie, Chenango and Broome counties.
“We are very pleased that the vast majority of landowners have been cooperative and willing to allow survey permission,” Stockton said in a subsequent email. “That has been true on our primary route as well as the route alternatives.”
He added: “We understand that there are some members of the community who have concerns about the project. We
take all of those concerns seriously and are committed to working with the community to address their issues the best we can.”
The increase in the number of landowners signaling their refusal to participate in the surveys has coincided with efforts by a new opposition group to the pipeline to convince them to reject the company’s requests, said Anne Marie Garti of East Meredith, one of the organizers of the grassroots organization.
The group, called Stop the Constitution Pipeline, over the past month contacted about 600 landowners along the pipeline’s preferred route, asking them to join the opposition and to keep the surveyors off their property, Garti said.
“This has happened in one month — the one month we have been active,” said Garti, who does not live along the preferred route.
In her view, she said, the percentage of landowners resisting the surveys is closer to 35 percent.
She noted the company lists 9.5 percent of the parcel owners as having their “concerns” still being addressed.
She said she views that group as being resistant to the project. “Not responding is opposition,” Garti said.
Stockton, asked to quantify the percentages of landowners who are both cooperating with the surveys and refusing to participate, said the owners of 640 tracts have given their permission while owners of 222 tracts have denied permission.
The pipeline company, if its application to construct the natural gas transmission system is approved by FERC, would be empowered with eminent domain rights — meaning resistance by landowners would not necessarily be an impediment to the project going forward.
FERC’s “citizens’ guide” to natural gas facilities explains what can happen on such interstate pipeline projects: “If the Commission approves the project and no agreement with the landowner is reached, the pipeline may acquire the easement under eminent domain (a right given to the pipeline company by statute to take private land for Commission-authorized use) with a court determining compensation.”
FERC also points out that — unless a local taxing authority grants relief — it is the landowners who pays taxes on the right-of-way where the pipeline is placed.
The right-of-way is generally 75 to 100 feet wide during construction, although more space is often required at road or stream crossings because of soil conditions, FERC notes.