COOPERSTOWN — A landowners’ group is urging supporters of natural gas drilling to use state hearings on the Constitution Pipeline project this week as a forum for sounding off against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing.
The hearings are intended to elicit public comment on the state Department of Environmental Conservation permits that both the pipeline and a related compressor station project in Schoharie County need for the $700 million natural gas transmission system to move forward.
The Joint Landowners Coalition, in a communication to its members, provided a list of suggested talking points for the event, advising: “Tell the DEC the only violation of the Constitution is the DEC’s DOH’s (Department of Health) and Governor’s reliance on JUNK science to ban NG (natural gas) development and that you don’t support that for natural gas or the pipeline!”
The string of three hearings will continue at 6 p.m. tonight at the State University College at Oneonta and again at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the State University at Cobleskill campus. The first forum was staged Monday in Binghamton.
The pipeline proposal has stirred passions on both sides of the fracking divide, with environmentalists arguing the project poses a threat to wetlands and air quality and continues the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, while supporters say it will bring economic benefits to local governments and school districts.
The pipeline company, through a spokesman, maintained Monday that its construction plan addresses potential environmental impacts.
“We have altered more than 50 percent of the originally planned route to adjust for landowner and environmental concerns,” said pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton. “And as mitigation to offset certain unavoidable impacts, we have developed a mitigation plan that will ultimately result in a net gain in wetlands and additional habitat for wildlife.”
The assertion that there will be a net gain in wetlands was disputed by a consultant to the Henry S. Kernan Family Trust, which owns 1,000 acres of Delaware County forested land that would be traversed by the pipeline. The family members involved in the trust are fighting the pipeline company’s effort to acquire easements through eminent domain.
Far more wetland acreage would be impacted than what the company is planning to provide mitigation for, said Steve Gross, a consultant to the Kernans. He also said that when wetlands not regulated by the federal government are taken into account, it would be “entirely likely” that the project would lead to a net decrease in wetland acreage.
“It also does not address the potential degradation that would occur in the case of a leak at some point in the future, which based on the performance of pipelines elsewhere both within and without the United States seems inevitable,” Gross said.
The DEC is also taking written comments via email or traditional mail on the proposed permits for the pipeline and an expansion of an existing compressor station in the town of Wright, operated by Iroquois Gas Co.
On Monday, the state agency extended the public comment period on the projects by 28 days. The comments will be accepted until close of business Feb. 27.
The pipeline project and the compressor expansion have both received conditional approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the panel of bureaucrats who oversee interstate pipeline applications. The DEC permits are the last significant hurdle for the project other than lawsuits expected to be filed by landowners who have refused to negotiate easements and anti-fracking activists who hope to derail the project.
The pipeline. backed by a consortium of four energy companies, would carry gas from northeastern Pennsylvania to the town of Wright in northeastern Schoharie County, where it would link to two existing pipelines. The project planners say they are hoping to begin construction this spring.
Key pipeline dates
Monday — Binghamton
Today — SUNY Oneonta, 6 p.m.
Wednesday — SUNY Cobleskill, 6 p.m.
Comment deadline: Feb. 27
This article was written by Joe Mahoney from The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.