The company proposing to build a 120-mile natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to Wright in Schoharie County is looking to give away some cash to demonstrate its intention to be a good neighbor.
Constitution Pipeline this week announced a new community grant program offering up to $25,000 for each project to local communities in the vicinity of the proposed pipeline’s path.
The offer comes as opposition to the proposal grows, as demonstrated in a letter-writing campaign and increasing resistance on the part of some landowners to allow pipeline surveyors on their properties.
In letters submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, residents in Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie counties have complained about the possibility of destroyed rural landscapes and lost property values.
Some have expressed concern the pipeline company will take people’s land through eminent domain and others suggest the pipeline won’t benefit of the public.
Constitution Pipeline has found the majority of landowners willing to allow property surveys, according to the company’s reports to FERC.
But the percentage of those unwilling to allow surveys is growing. The company in July reported 63.8 percent of landowners granted permission and 15.6 denied access by July 16.
By Aug. 16, the number of parcel owners denying access rose to 22.4 percent.
Supervisor Eugene Milone, D-Schoharie, is among those opposed to the disruption a major pipeline construction project would bring to the rural community.
He said Constitution Pipeline’s new grant program is an effort to purchase acceptance.
“They’re trying to buy people. It’s that simple,” Milone said.
“Take it at face value. All of a sudden they’re offering grants. We had a disaster here a year ago, where were they then?”
Constitution Pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton said in an email the grant program isn’t aimed at warming citizens up to the idea of a pipeline project but rather to show people that community support is something the company values.
“We are rolling it out now, even before we file our application, because we are trying to demonstrate to communities that we are willing to go above and beyond their expectations to be a good neighbor and create tangible benefits for the project,” Stockton said.
The deadline for the first round of grant applications is Sept. 30 — months before the company is expecting to file a formal application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Projects the company hopes to help pay for include support for emergency/first responders, youth or senior services, education programs, enhancing open space and park land for recreation, wildlife habitat enrichment, environmental education promotion, land purchases to protect wetlands and wildlife and property purchases for accessing public lands, scenic and wildlife views and to improve and develop active recreational areas.
Applications for grants are to be submitted online from the website Constitutionpipeline.com. Another grant round has a deadline for March 15, 2013.