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Pipeline changes don’t ease public concern

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
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Former Sharon Springs Mayor Eliott Adams, left, speaks about the Constitution Pipeline proposal Wednesday during a meeting of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors.
Former Sharon Springs Mayor Eliott Adams, left, speaks about the Constitution Pipeline proposal Wednesday during a meeting of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors.

— A new route being proposed for the Constitution Pipeline would avoid the villages of Schoharie and Richmondville while traveling around watersheds that provide drinking water, pipeline representatives said Wednesday.

Route change and the elimination of a new compressor station are among details supervisors heard before residents and some supervisors launched pointed questions and criticism of the $750 million construction proposal.

Constitution Pipeline LLC is undertaking a pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and expects to file an application for approval in May or June.

Adjusted plans call for a 122-mile pipeline traveling from Pennsylvania and into Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie counties.

The 30-inch diameter steel pipe would require one metering station and a compressor station will no longer be necessary, Constitution Pipeline spokeswoman Cindy Ivey said.

Ivey cited a deal with Iroquois Gas Transmission, which owns the compressor station in the Town of Wright that’s served as the destination for the pipeline. She said the request for expansion at the Iroquois compressor station is expected to be combined with the Constitution Pipeline request to FERC.

The company hopes to transport 650,000 dekatherms of natural gas daily through the line, sufficient to serve about 3 million houses. Customers in Boston and New York City areas are to be the consumers.

Pipeline project manager Matt Swift said input from residents and officials guided about 20 major changes in the initial pipeline route, and other shifts were been made after property surveys where residents allowed them — roughly 60 percent.

Initial drafts put the pipe about 500 feet from Cobleskill’s water supply reservoirs and it’s been pushed 5,000 feet south and further away from households, Swift said.

Discussion turned to safety and scientific formulas after Middleburgh resident Harold Wright heard the pipeline could be planted as close as 150 feet to a home.

That matters, Wright said, because he also heard earlier that night the “potential impact radius” of a 30-inch gas pipeline explosion under the pressure expected for the Constitution Pipeline is estimated at about 800 feet.

“Your 800-foot blast radius would level my house,” Wright said.

Constitution Pipeline has described several economic benefits in addition to construction worker spending, including the availability of natural gas in areas, such as Schoharie County, not served by it.

The company now estimates the project’s property tax revenue in Schoharie County at about $4.6 million.

In past practice, Sharon Springs resident Eliott Adams, a former mayor, said the village was never able to take advantage of natural gas despite the proximity of two major pipelines. The gas running through the lines was already purchased, and there wasn’t enough left over for the village to develop its own gas service, Adams said. “We could not get gas.”

Pipeline representatives said there are no local distribution companies signed on to purchase any gas from Constitution Pipeline in Schoharie County. But further south, the Leatherstocking Gas company is planning to tap into the line to serve businesses, they said.

Esperance Supervisor Earl Van Wormer III said local officials continue to learn about pipeline maintenance projects after work is already done, and he said communication is consistently lacking with existing pipeline companies.

Steve Harris of Cobleskill questioned whether Constitution Pipeline would pay residents for any loss in property value if the pipeline is built.

Swift from Constitution said he doesn’t believe there’s a correlation between the pipeline and lowered property values and the company, which owns 16,000 miles of pipeline, has seen homes built nearby after pipelines were in the ground.

Ivey said the company also appraises properties before construction to use for comparison in the future.

Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone, an opponent of the pipeline and hydrofracking — the process used to produce the gas that would pass through the Constitution Pipeline — questioned why a pipeline would be placed within 150 of a house when damage in an accident could reach 800 feet.

Swift said the incident rate for pipeline accidents is “extremely small.”

The proposal led to the creation of the Stop the Pipeline grassroots group which has led a letter-writing and picketing campaign against the project. Many members fear the pipeline represents a magnet for hydrofracking.

Some held signs, other spoke and declared to fight against the proposal.

Allen Cosgrove of Cobleskill displayed a large poster detailing his research into serious pipeline incidents that took place in 2012. He counts 28, some of which were fatalities.

Constitution Pipeline is planning to submit a dozen reports to FERC, the product of months of research into environmental impacts, archaeological resources and other studies in mid-February, Ivey said.

Some of the timetable will depend on FERC and its review, and the request for approval could be submitted as early as May or later in the summer, Ivey said.

 
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