Water supplies, homes, property values and country life are among things speakers Tuesday declared would be imperiled if federal regulators allow private enterprise to build a 120-mile pipeline from Pennsylvania to Schoharie County.
Roughly 200 residents and officials attended a public hearing held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to seek guidance on factors the agency should take into consideration during an environmental review for the $750 million proposal.
Some who spoke pointed to specific environmental issues; others sought to highlight how a pipeline construction project is throwing their life’s dream into a tailspin.
“It poses too great a threat to our community as a whole,” said Richmondville Mayor Kevin Neary, who questioned the need for a pipeline in a place where a small community is asked to take the greatest risk while receiving the least benefit.
Constitution Pipeline is engaged in FERC’s pre-filing process, by which the federal government is streamlining the process major projects undergo in early scrutiny — Constitution expects to file a formal application early next year.
Some citizens are just learning the 30-inch pipe could be planted on their land.
Otsego County resident Christopher Brake learned about it two weeks ago — likely because Constitution Pipeline, citing input from officials and residents, is offering another alternative route that would travel closer to Interstate 88 and into Otsego County.
Brake said he and his family are trying to pursue organic farming, not natural gas transmission.
“This essentially puts us in the business of natural gas supply,” he said, decrying what he suspects will be lowered property value and the possibility of losing insurance coverage altogether.
“I beg you to aggressively seek an alternative to this entire process,” Brake said.
Schoharie town Supervisor Gene Milone said there’s already too many gas lines in Schoharie County and residents are still reeling from last year’s devastating tropical storms Irene and Lee.
Milone said residents in Schoharie County already lost thousands of acres of land to New York City for the Schoharie Reservoir and Gilboa Dam; more acres were lost when the New York Power Authority built its hydroelectric facility and two dams that go with it.
Residents in the county, he said, have “consistently made sacrifices to benefit the masses.”
“I guess it remains to be seen how much you care about our communities. Please care about our people and ask no more from us,” Milone said.
The crowd assembled at the Schoharie school, many holding signs that said “Stop the Pipeline,” often erupted with applause when speakers criticized the proposal.
Many also began clapping when one supporter, David Parker, spoke in favor of the economic benefits a pipeline project could bring to the town of Worcester, where he serves as a councilman. Parker said the project could bring local jobs during construction, bring money to landowners including farmers and some revenue to local merchants who could serve pipeline construction personnel.
“It benefits the local economy,” Parker said.
Middleburgh town Supervisor James Buzon said he’s concerned about the pipeline construction’s potential impact on farmstand operations and the project’s potential to attract heavy industry like chemical manufacturing and incinerators.
There are two active mines along the pipeline’s proposed route, Buzon said, and he wants FERC to consider the impact constant vibration and periodic blasting might have on a natural gas pipeline.
Don Airey, head of the town of Blenheim’s post-flood recovery committee, said he can’t suggest the pipeline simply be placed in somebody else’s backyard. A propane pipeline explosion in 1990 claimed two lives and leveled the hamlet of North Blenheim.
Airey said a massive pipeline project could put a damper on any tourism business Schoharie County communities might try to foster.
“People don’t travel to see the pipeline. ... They might travel to see an explosion,” Airey said.
Bob Nied of Richmondville said it was “arrogant, insensitive and inexcusable” to propose a pipeline through a county that’s already been scarred by disaster wrought by a gas pipeline. He urged FERC to study Schoharie County’s ability to respond to a pipeline explosion, and said he is prepared to sit down in front of a bulldozer if the pipeline is approved.
“I will not step aside,” he said.
The federal commission will continue taking public comment on the proposal as it relates to the environmental impact studies that are ongoing until Oct. 9, representatives told the crowd. People interested in providing input can file comments online at www.ferc.gov, click on the “Quick Comment” link and reference PF12-9, the Constitution Pipeline project’s number.
Comment is also being taken through FERC’s eFiling feature, also at ferc.gov.
Written comments can also be sent by traditional mail to: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First St. NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426.