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Both sides haggle Cuomo on pipeline permits

Both sides of the debate over the controversial Constitution Pipeline project are ratcheting up pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to act in ways that fulfill their respective wishes on state permits sought by the developer.

The drama surrounding the looming decision comes as speculation mounts that the state Department of Environmental Conservation could act any day now on the so-called 401 water quality permits.

Earlier forecasts saying the decision would be issued have been erroneous, and the company said this summer that it anticipated action on the state permits by the end of July. That was nearly six months ago.

Both sides are brimming with arguments supporting their respective positions.

In postcards to Cuomo, pipeline supporters from Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie and Chenango counties, among other areas of the state, are going on record identifying themselves as advocates for the $700 million project, said Dick Downey of the Unatego Area Landowner Association.

The supporters contend the project will bring in $14 million in new tax revenue while supplying local communities with gas service, and could one day bring about natural gas drilling to the Southern Tier.

Some 10,000 postcards have been distributed (though exactly how many have been sent to Cuomo is unknown) with each mailing stating: “Please issue the 401-Water Permit for our jobs, our families and our community.”

Anne Marie Garti of the grassroots local group Stop the Pipeline said a total of 43 environmental groups are urging their members to call on Cuomo and Acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos to reject the pipeline application.

“Since FERC has conditionally approved the pipeline, DEC’s rejection of the 401 water quality certificate is the last chance that we have of stopping this dangerous pipeline,” Stop the Pipeline said in a recent communication to its members.

Garti said DEC is not obligated to act on the company’s water permit application until May, although concern has been growing that a decision will come over the holiday season.

Following the release of his company’s most recent earnings report in October, Dan Dinges, the CEO of Cabot Oil & Gas, one of the lead partners in the project, assured investors that the transmission system could be in service by late 2016 if the DEC approves the permits.

Related: Pipeline review to be co-led by NY environmental agency.

“Construction of the project is estimated to directly and indirectly create 2,400 jobs and generate about $130 million in labor income to the region,” Dinges said.

But critics say many of the trade union workers who would install the pipe do not reside in local counties. The opponents also contend the project contradicts Cuomo’s goal of reducing reliance on fossil fuels while increasing the risk of methane gas escaping into the atmosphere and leaving nearby residents vulnerable to pipeline disasters.

Though the project has been on the drawing board for nearly four years, Cuomo has not discussed it. His administration’s decision last year to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas stopped short of addressing the ongoing debate over expanding natural gas infrastructure.

State officials are also part of the review of the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline proposal. It would roughly parallel to the Constitution Pipeline route from northeast Pennsylvania to the town of Wright in Schoharie County, before branching into New England.

The NED project, which would carry 1.3 billion cubic feet of gas each day, has stirred up considerable opposition both locally and in New England. On Monday. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who contends her state does not need the additional gas supply, filed a formal motion to intervene in the NED proceeding before FERC.

(c)2015 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)

This article was written by Joe Mahoney from The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.