At a glance
• Looking for more places to enjoy winter in Schenectady County? Contact ECOS: The Environmental Clearinghouse at 370-4125 or visit www.ecosny.org.
• The organization offers outdoor outings year-round and publishes books promoting outdoor activity and education, including “Natural Areas of Schenectady County,” a 56-page guide that describes 26 areas open to the public.
SCHOHARIE COUNTY Citizen activists contend regulators are “glossing over” serious impacts that could affect the region if a major natural gas pipeline proposal wins approval.
Constitution Pipeline is requesting permission to build a 124-mile-long natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to the Schoharie County town of Wright, and Delaware County-based Stop the Pipeline is calling on residents in and around the region to get involved.
Among details in the pipeline’s draft environmental impact statement now under public review: Trenches are required through more than 30 miles of farmland and at least 10 miles of wetlands; and construction cuts through 36 miles of forest.
The grassroots organization submitted one of the first comments on the record since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opened public comment last week on the environmental review, and founder Anne Marie Garti is urging those unaware of the proposal to take a serious look.
“This pipeline is going to do more than anything else, ever, to transform central New York state,” Garti said Tuesday.
Stop the Pipeline submitted a one-page flier to FERC’s project docket depicting, in one frame, a trickling brook flowing along a serene hillside.
A torrent of water blasts through a similar scene in a photo frame next to it, carrying the title “Hillside during Hurricane Irene.”
Above the flooding photo, the group positioned a quote from Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying: “There is a 100-year flood every 2 years now.”
Garti, who pored over hundreds of pages of the draft environmental impact statement, catalogs a variety of environmental impacts Stop the Pipeline is demanding regulators consider. Among them: Construction would have to go through more than 35 miles of steep slopes and contend with roughly 45 miles of shallow bedrock — the type of terrain that usually requires blasting.
“One shouldn’t discount all of these steep slopes in terms of their relationships with floods, especially in Schoharie County,” Garti said.
Fragmented forests, compacted soils and less land to grow crops are among issues Garti believes should prompt citizens to stand up and demand regulators say “no.”
On the other side of the issue, Constitution Pipeline contends detailed studies resulted in avoiding more severe impacts a pipeline route would carry if it were located closer to people.
Constitution Pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton said FERC didn’t gloss over critical impacts, but instead made important judgments on how impacts to the environment can be minimized.
“FERC doesn’t say there will not be impacts. What the FERC does say is that those impacts can be mitigated or significantly reduced if the company follows the measures outlined in the [draft environmental impact statement],” Stockton said in an email Tuesday.
He said engineers and scientists faced a “balancing act” when trying to find an acceptable route for the 30-inch pipeline to stretch from Pennsylvania to Schoharie County. One of the primary goals, he said, was to keep the pipeline’s proposed path away from populated areas.
“We recognized that the installation of this type of infrastructure can be an inconvenience, so we try to keep it in areas that aren’t as heavily populated,” Stockton said.
Wetlands and wildlife habitat areas were another focus for avoidance, and Stockton said the company has to take safety into account when considering where contractors can actually work.
“Unless you’ve witnessed it firsthand, it’s difficult to appreciate the size and scope of the people and equipment necessary to safely install a 30-inch transmission pipeline,” Stockton said.
An April 7 deadline was set last week for public comment on the draft environmental impact statement for the pipeline. An electronic comment feature is available on the website of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at www.ferc.gov.
People can also provide input in person during a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, March 31, at Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School, 1353 Route 7, Richmondville.