Area school boards are calling on Constitution Pipeline to consider a different route for the 30-inch natural gas line the company wants to plant beneath Capital Region BOCES’ Schoharie campus.
The board at Capital Region BOCES isn’t taking a position on the controversial pipeline, which is under federal review. They just don’t believe it’s a good idea to put a high-pressure pipe full of flammable gas beneath a site where teenagers learn how to use backhoes and tractors.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is reviewing an application from Constitution Pipeline to build a 122-mile natural gas line from northeastern Pennsylvania to the Schoharie County town of Wright. The pathway being proposed for the pipeline includes the area of the Schoharie campus off Route 30A where students learn how to build ponds and dig with excavators.
The Capital Region BOCES board approved a resolution Monday rejecting a $25,475.02 payment for a permanent right of way offered by Constitution. Additional funding is attractive, Capital Region BOCES Superintendent Charles S. Dedrick said Wednesday, but “student safety comes first.”
“The fact is, you can’t have a 30-inch gas pipeline running across property where 16- and 17-year-olds learn how to use backhoes,” he said.
The BOCES board’s decision is being followed by similar thoughts from boards of education in districts that send students to the campus for career and technical education, such as the Schoharie Central School District. Superintendent Brian Sherman said that district’s Board of Education is considering a resolution this week in line with the Capital Region BOCES decision.
He said via email Wednesday his district hasn’t taken a formal position on the pipeline proposal, just the idea of putting it under school property.
“Although there are both pros and cons to the Constitution Pipeline, a route cutting across the area where our students practice with heavy equipment digging up the ground is an accident waiting to happen,” Sherman said.
He said the Capital Region BOCES heavy equipment program taught at the Schoharie campus is regarded as highly successful and led to six students matriculating into Alfred State College a year ago.
“This is unprecedented and speaks volumes about the success of the program, the future of which could be drawn into question based on what FERC approves,” Sherman said.
The Capital Region BOCES Career & Technical School’s Schoharie campus provides students with a variety of learning opportunities, in addition to classes in commercial construction and heavy equipment operation and maintenance. Course listings also include automotive service, culinary arts and hospitality, small engine repair, automotive trades technology and cosmetology. The campus serves more than 200 students.
Constitution Pipeline LLC gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission an application in June for the $683 million project. The pipeline as proposed would transport 650,000 dekatherms of natural gas daily from supplies being drawn from the Marcellus Shale deposit in Pennsylvania — enough to power 3 million homes.
FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen was unable Wednesday to characterize the agency’s deliberative process when a proposed pipeline path includes an educational campus.
“We don’t comment on pending matters,” she said.
Constitution Pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton, in an email Wednesday, said he believes the heavy machinery practice area on the school’s campus was avoided during proposed routing.
“It is our understanding that the current pipeline alignment already avoids the training area. If that isn’t the case, then we would be willing to work with the district to attempt to reach a mutually acceptable solution.”
Stockton said the pipeline’s routing in proximity of the school is the result of efforts to move the pipeline closer to the Interstate 88 corridor. Moving routes closer to the highway is something residents and officials were calling for last year, after the pipeline was first proposed.
He said the pipe’s route as planned sits roughly 1,500 feet from the district’s building.
“In addition, we are attempting to ensure that the pipeline’s location does not interfere with any designated equipment training areas on district property,” Stockton said.
He also said the pipeline company has experience operating a gas line in areas with even greater populations.
“If constructed, the pipeline will include design features and operating practices that will exceed already-stringent safety requirements of regulatory authorities,” Stockton said.