Only one tells FERC Constitution Pipeline good idea
10/3/2012 By Patsy Nicosia
It came as no surprise Tuesday that of the dozen or so speakers to take the mic in the first hour of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's hearing on Constitution Pipeline hearing, just one sees its economic benefits.
More than 200 people filled the Schoharie Central School auditorium for the three-hour hearing; 40 registered to speak for five-minute slots.
Opponents of Constitution Pipeline's plans to run a 120-mile natural gas pipeline through Schoharie and Otsego Counties along with opponents of fracking crowded the SCS hallways with signs and hand-outs questioning the need and safety of both before taking their concerns inside.
FERC officials told the crowd they were seeking guidance on what environmental and safety issues to consider in reviewing the $750 million proposal, which could run, in part, alongside I-88.
Sharing a spot at the mic, Richmondville Supervisor Richard Lape and Mayor Kevin Neary both said that route is too dangerous to consider.
"It needlessly exposes our rural community to the greatest risks while receiving the least economic benefit," Mayor Neary said, urging FERC to ask Constitution to look at other options.
But David Parker of Worcester, where he's a town councilman and involved in a pro-gas landowner's coalition, argued the possible benefits are sizeable.
Mr. Parker said construction would bring in local jobs and benefit local businesses. He said there would be a demand for square bales of hay and sand and PILOT's that would benefit local schools and municipalities.
"It makes perfect sense in terms of avoiding population areas," he said of "M", the I-88 alternative, which would travel the length of Worcester.
"And I see the logic of the shortest route from source to market. It will benefit the local economy."
Mr. Parker's testimony was interrupted by hecklers after he exceeded the five-minute limit on speaking-he was the first, but far from the last; one called out, "Go back to Worcester!"
Mr. Parker said afterwards that's why so few people come out to speak in favor of things like the pipeline and fracking.
"But the support is there," he said.
Just not there Wednesday.
Middleburgh Supervisor Jim Buzon said the pipeline crosses the Schoharie Creek seven times-hardly a good idea in the wake of last year's flooding---and he questioned its impact on agriculture and tourism.
Mr. Buzon also told FERC he wants them to consider the impact blasting at Carver Stone and Cobleskill Stone could have on a pipeline-and what impact a gas pipeline could have on future expansion at either mine.
Don Airey, who's heading up rebuilding efforts there post-Irene, said he can't ask neighboring towns to take what Blenheim doesn't want.
But a pipeline and the accompanying infrastructure would put a real damper on their hopes of linking economic recovery to tourism.
"I don't think people will travel to see a pipeline," he said. "...they might travel to see an explosion," also a reference to Blenheim's 1990 natural gas explosion that killed two and flattened much of the hamlet.
Others said they'd just learned of Constitution's plans and questioned the project's impact on things like land values and their insurance costs.
Francois Vedier of Cobleskill, an engineer, asked about Constitution's conflicting claims that communities along the route could develop their own infrastructure to tap into the natural gas while at the same time saying that all of the gas is already spoken for.
Bob Nied of Richmondville and the grassroots Center for Sustainable Rural Communities, called Constitution "arrogant, insensitive and inexcusable" to propose a pipeline through a county scarred by disaster and promised a fight if construction begins.
People are prepared to sit down in front of bulldozers, he said, "And I'm one of them. I give you my word: I will not step aside."