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Public can have input on pipeline plan tonight in Schoharie

Monday, September 24, 2012
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— A hearing this evening represents the first time residents affected by the Constitution Pipeline proposal will get a chance to voice their concerns in a public forum.

For months, residents in counties considered a likely route for the 30-inch, 120-mile-long natural gas pipeline have launched questions and concerns by mail and email, all of which is now posted on the website of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Tonight’s meeting will be the first time people will address FERC personally, and many are expected to attend the three-hour session at the Schoharie school starting at 7 p.m.

Constitution Pipeline representatives will be there at 6 p.m. to answer questions.

The company seeks to pump enough natural gas to supply 3 million homes through a pipeline that would run from Pennsylvania up to a compressor station in the Schoharie County town of Wright.

The project as proposed would require roughly 120.6 miles of pipe planted through Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie counties. Some alternate routes include portions of Otsego and Schenectady counties.

The plan also calls for building four meter and regulation stations, two in Pennsylvania and two more in Schoharie County.

A new compressor station with two, 16,000-horsepower turbines would also be built in Schoharie County if the project is approved.

Several proposed paths have been identified for the $750 million construction project, all of which have been followed with urging from residents to put it somewhere else.

There have been a few positive comments sent to FERC on the proposal.

James Schultz of Schoharie wrote a letter to FERC in July urging the pipeline come as close as possible to the village of Schoharie “so that in the future there would be a chance that we could have a supplier tap into it and supply the village with gas.”

Bruce J. Hodges, president of the Local 1529 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, submitted comment in early August lamenting the lack of natural gas in the vicinity of two major employers in Delaware County, Amphenol and ACCO Brands.

“Access to natural gas would result in significant energy savings to both businesses and residential homes that would have the opportunity to use it if a pipeline was located nearby. Bringing natural gas to Sidney and the surrounding communities is decades overdue and this pipeline appears to be the best opportunity for getting it here,” Hodges wrote.

Dan Adelmann wrote that he has farm property and urged one of the alternative routes — the one that sticks close to the Interstate-88 highway — be chosen.

“We have a 200-plus acre farm and need the income this will generate in our county. The loud, vocal opposition is a small minority,” he wrote.

Along with the few positive comments, there have been dozens of negative ones.

Many commenting have suggested a new pipeline would simply lure high-volume hydraulic fracturing for gas, or fracking, to rural areas.

Others are decrying the mere thought of building a pipeline through “virgin, unspoiled countryside” or detailing how pipeline construction would limit the use of land such as woodlots where, if the pipe is built, trees couldn’t be planted.

Still others are most concerned about the possibility of leaks and explosion, a possibility that folks in Delaware and Schoharie counties are familiar with.

A pressurized propane pipeline, now owned by Enterprise Products Partners, leaked in August of 2010 and forced the evacuation of dozens of residents in a three-mile radius around Gilboa.

That leak led to a corrective action order issued by the U.S. DOT’s pipeline and hazardous materials safety administration. The probe into the leak is still ongoing and regulators have yet to propose a fine or close out the investigation.

Two people were killed when the pipeline blew up in North Blenheim in 1990 and leveled several structures.

The same pipe also blew up in 2004 in Davenport, Delaware County, where residents such as William and Ingrid Husam remain uneasy about pipelines.

The couple co-signed a letter to FERC stating the events of Jan. 26, 2004 are still “fresh in our minds.”

“It was late evening and the house shook, the snow was knocked off our roof and the sky was lit up an eerie orange,” the letter states.

A neighbor, they said, barely made it out of his home before “his trailer and the majority of his property was obliterated.”

Greg Thomas was more blunt in a small letter he wrote to FERC against the pipeline. He said the proposed construction area is rough with hills and he doesn’t like the idea of explosions.

“Stay off my land,” he wrote.

Constitution Pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton in an email Monday said comments submitted to FERC have to be taken into perspective. Many of them, he said, aren’t property owners who would be affected by the construction.

Of more than 150 comments submitted so far, 62 have been from property owners known to be in the pipeline’s path, with 40 of those expressing “clear opposition to the project,” he said.

“Placing that into perspective, it represents about 2 percent of the 2,000 [property] owners,” Stockton said.

The FERC hearing will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Schoharie High School at 136 Academy Drive.

 
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