An update on the Constitution Pipeline proposal Wednesday will feature a familiar face during a special meeting in Schoharie: former state Assemblyman John Faso.
Faso, now an attorney working for the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, serves as a consultant to Constitution Pipeline and plans to give Schoharie County supervisors an update on the project, which is believed to be just weeks from being a formal application before federal regulators.
Constitution Pipeline held meetings throughout the year as part of a pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Since the proposal was announced in early 2012, the company has been surveying properties and performing environmental studies along the proposed pipeline’s 120-mile path from northern Pennsylvania to the Schoharie County town of Wright.
The $750 million construction project has drawn opposition from some residents but support from others.
Environmental groups are concerned a 30-inch pipeline represents a sure magnet for hydrofracturing, the controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale deep below ground.
Others see benefits in an open access pipeline that could bring natural gas to areas currently served by bottled gas and open new avenues for manufacturing.
Faso, who served as an assemblyman from 1986 to 2002 and was soundly defeated by Eliot Spitzer in the 2006 gubernatorial race, serves as a consultant for Constitution Pipeline.
“Obviously from my years in government, I know a lot of folks in different parts of the state,” he said Monday.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Faso said he expects to provide updates on the project’s timing and any issues that have surfaced over the past year during the pre-filing process. He said he’s planning meetings with the other counties within the project’s path as the process leads toward the filing of a formal application with federal regulators.
Schoharie Town Supervisor Gene Milone said supervisors weren’t given an agenda for the special meeting. He is among those opposed to a major pipeline construction project being proposed as the county continues to rebuild from damage left by tropical storms, and he expects a sales pitch from Constitution Pipeline.
“He’s probably going to try to convince us it’s the right thing to do,” Milone said.
The meeting follows Schoharie County’s recent official statements on the Constitution Pipeline submitted to FERC.
One letter submitted in October brings attention to the Barton Hill Watershed in Schoharie; the prevalence of karst geology, with its numerous caves; and the pipeline proposal’s potential interference with public water supplies.
The other, submitted in late December, asks Constitution to “respect and consider relevant portions of the Comprehensive Plans, Land Use Laws, and/or Resolutions, of all Towns and Villages within the county.” It also requests that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission study and mitigate the chance the pipeline project could enable “heavy industrial developments” prohibited by any land use laws on the books in towns and villages.
Federal rules govern FERC, so it’s unclear whether the agency will consider local land use regulations — it doesn’t have to.
That very fact, Milone said, highlights difficulties in the process that strips localities of their land use governance. “Why are we going through this process, with respect to our comprehensive plans and zoning laws and so on and so forth, if the federal government can come along and say we don’t recognize them?” he said.
Faso said he’s heard both sides of the issue working as a consultant for the pipeline firm, including the opposition.
Quiet picketing accompanied Constitution meetings held in various locations along the pipe’s proposed path, and few took to the microphone during a public hearing to voice support for the project.
Though they are quiet, some in the area yearn for the economic benefits that could be realized, were the $750 million construction project to receive federal approval.
“I also think there are many people who recognize that the pipeline will provide a substantial amount of local tax revenue to school districts and local governments,” Faso said.
Constitution Pipeline has estimated Schoharie County’s taxing jurisdictions could earn $5,00,000 annually in property taxes on the pipe if it’s built.
There are others — including Faso, who heats his Kinderhook home with bottled gas — who envision the modern benefits of inexpensive natural gas piped to homes and businesses.
“I’d sure like to have natural gas in my house,” he said.
The special meeting of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Board of Supervisors room on the third floor of the county office building on Main Street in Schoharie.
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