Opponents of the Constitution Pipeline and other natural gas infrastructure projects planned for the area marched on the state Department of Environmental Conservation offices in Albany on Tuesday to urge the agency to deny the project’s final water permits.
More than 100 people joined the protest, carrying signs reading “No Pipeline, Period” and chanting “DEC, do the right thing!” in what organizers called an emergency press event to pressure the DEC and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to bring a halt to the Constitution Pipeline project.
The 124-mile pipeline received federal approval in December, paving the way for the use of eminent domain to seize rights away where landowners were not willing to negotiate.
“The pipeline company has publicly stated that DEC would make a decision in July on its application for a ‘401 water quality certificate,’ which it needs to build the Constitution Pipeline,” read a news release from a coalition of environmental groups. “Now that it’s August, we are all concerned that a decision could come down any day.”
The Constitution Pipeline would carry gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania north through four New York counties, connecting with existing pipelines in the Schoharie County town of Wright. The project also includes an update to that facility.
Opponents argue that the intention of the project is not to supply local gas — although Constitution does promise some local connections along the way — but to export gas to foreign markets.
“It’s not coming to our town. It’s not coming to the United States,” said Paul Muratore of the Delaware County town of Sidney. “Yet they’re using this eminent domain to take people’s land, which is wrong. It’s theft.”
Muratore, who joined the march Tuesday, said “this atrocity” — the pipeline — is set to pass within about 1,000 feet of his house.
“This DEC, they’re supposed to be environmental conservation,” he said. “They’ve got to start pushing renewables. Enough is enough with the dirty fuel.”
For every sign urging a quick stop to the Constitution Pipeline, at least one other advocated for renewable energy sources over natural gas. “The fossil fuel age is over!” read one. “No more pipelines!”
Shelley Geller of Stephentown in Rensselear County joined the march not because of the Constitution Pipeline, but because of Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct project, another pipeline proposed to follow the same route as Constitution from Pennsylvania to Wright before striking out on its own across Albany and Rensselear counties.
“The same issues that face the Constitution are facing us,” she said. “And it’s worse because we’re getting even less gas.”
Geller wanted to see the DEC act against Constitution as a precedent for similar action against the NED project. “Our pipeline fight is just in the beginning,” she said.
In addition to the lack of local benefit and use of eminent domain, opponents decry the destruction of more than 1,000 acres of forest and farmland, razing of more than 700,000 trees and crossing of 277 waterways in the construction of Constitution.
Glenn Sanders of Schoharie has joined some Schoharie County leaders to lobby the state to freeze natural gas infrastructure development and conduct a study as it did with hydrofracking. Hydrofracking was banned by the state earlier this year.
“We are here today to say, ‘Do it right, do it professionally, protect the people and obey the law,’ ” he said.
DEC did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
A statement from Constitution Pipeline spokesman Chris Stockton, however, noted that New York’s 2015 Energy Plan calls for a 32 percent increase in natural gas usage over the next decade, most of which will have to come from out of state, and therefore require this kind of pipeline expansion.
“While those individuals opposed to Constitution Pipeline are quick to site environmental concerns, the reality is that the state’s heavy dependence on natural gas has brought significant environmental benefits,” Stockton wrote, pointing to a reduction in power plant emission rates from 2000 to 2014 thanks to increased natural gas use.
“We have been working closely with the NYSDEC for years,” he wrote. “We have listened to NYSDEC and have taken significant steps to satisfy all of the agency’s concerns.”
Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 723-0811, [email protected] or @KyleRAdams on Twitter.
Categories: Schenectady County