We have to learn to live with fossil fuels a while longer

The “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) syndrome is alive and well.

The “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) syndrome is alive and well.

The recent meeting (April 6th) in Schoharie included entertainers and a film maker protesting the proposed 120-mile pipelines that are to interconnect with existing energy facilities from the Southern Tier to the Capital Region.

Apparently, someone raised the question during the meeting, “Where is the Department of Environmental Conservation?” In other words, “Why is the DEC not stopping these awful projects as we know what is best for our local area?”

May I point out that the DEC has not gone anywhere. Professionals in Regions 3 and 4, as well in the central office in Albany, are faithfully doing their jobs evaluating development proposals in accordance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

The purpose of the regulating agency is not to stop projects, but to evaluate alternatives and determine the least disruptive path that will protect the public and achieve the goal of the developer.

Some may recall that DEC staff researched and developed stringent regulations over a three-year period, addressing the relatively new high-volume hydrofracing technique for gas development in New York.

Unfortunately, during the study and evaluation process, erroneous information evolved into a political movement. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had the DEC shelve the agency’s work, denying countless thousands of land owners the benefits from energy development in New York.

The pipeline proposals are not a “game changer” for the Catskill mountain area. The need for gas energy in the Capital Region and elsewhere is sufficient for energy managers to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure the public consumer the benefits of a safe and reliable source of energy.

The people opposing the pipeline interconnects are a rather small group. Most are landowners. I think it is important to understand that approximately three -quarters of the landowners in the pipeline right-of-way have accepted the company’s cash offer for damages.

No one likes something taken from them against their will. On the other hand, land rights being almost sacred in our legal system, one person, or more than one person, cannot stop a project planned for the general good of society.

Such projects include roads, railroads and utility development projects. Therefore, law was developed called “eminent domain” to take the necessary lands for the public good. The only recourse a property owner has is to argue the value of the taking in a Court of Claims action, not stop the project.

I recognize that many believe that renewable energy is the “wave of the future” and that we, as a society, should discourage fossil fuel energy development.

This belief may be the root reason for the protest of the Catskill pipeline interconnects. It was certainly the reason why President Obama is discouraging coal energy development and recently disapproved the Keystone Pipeline interconnect out of Canada. I found it interesting to hear a Canadian official wishing to trade their energy resource to us state, “There are over 80 cross-border pipelines into the U.S. Why stop this one?”

The reality is that the world economy operates on fossil fuels. That

fact of life will not change decades into the future — even as we

continue developing alternative sources of energy. Recently, a retired chief executive officer from Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest energy companies in the world, stated that world demand for oil will increase from 92 million to 100 million barrels per day over the next several years.

He went on to say that fossil fuels will be the primary source of energy through the 21st century. That is a powerful statement.

My wife and I recently drove through the southwestern section of the country. Being a former petroleum engineer, I was well aware of the rich oil and gas fields in the Permian Basin — West Texas area. Crude oil from these fields flow hundreds of miles through pipelines to the refineries on the Gulf coast.

These refineries convey gasoline, jet and diesel fuel into the 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline system, constructed during the Kennedy Administration, that supplies the large eastern cities including New York. I was amazed to see many hundreds — if not thousands of windmill generators in this energy-rich area.

The development of wind and solar energy, currently fulfilling about 4 percent of our energy needs, is forecast by government and industry agencies to exceed 10 percent in 15 years. That is rapid growth in the alternative energy market. The reality check is that we will continue to need fossil fuel energy sources throughout the lifetime of our children’s children’s generation.

Therefore, let us not oppose energy development and facility upgrades such as the Catskill interconnects, but insist on identifying the least environmental impact for such projects.

Russ Wege of Glenville is a retired engineer.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply