When I was a child, I remember spending an entire day planning an overnight camping trip with a cousin.
We hauled — up a long hill and across rough fields — wagon loads of food, all 37 of our stuffed animals, and enough sleeping gear to survive minus-30 degree weather. We hoped our parents would appreciate, once we asked, that there was too much already in place to refuse permission.
This seems to be the same strategy that the Constitution (a project of the gas and oil companies Cabot and Williams) and other pipeline construction proposals are using to insidiously set up an infrastructure for hydro-fracking in New York state, and probably for export as well.
For two years, they have been pressing landowners, politicians, elected officials and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve their numerous pipeline and related infrastructure proposals as fast as possible, before people are able to fully respond to or realize its impacts.
Once the infrastructure is in place, why not frack, New York? Why transport anything from Pennsylvania to New York City or Boston by way of Schoharie anyway?
Their Draft Environmental Impact Statement doesn’t answer that question or many, many others and was recently declared inadequate by six agencies that reviewed it, including state Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
As an affected landowner, my situation represents what many others along the proposed route have been experiencing throughout the processes.
I am a trustee of the Henry Kernan Trust that owns land in Delaware County in the town of Harpersfield. The Constitution has requested from FERC a “certificate of public need and necessity” that would permit it to confiscate our land through use of the power of eminent domain to build a 30-inch pipeline from one end of this property to the other; nearly 1 percent of the entire length of the proposed pipeline.
A pipeline through our land would seriously degrade two of the largest wetlands of their types south of the Mohawk Valley, including over 60 acres of ecologically pristine sphagnum bog/lake with unique vegetation: carnivorous plants, at least five species of native orchids, dwarf mistletoe, bog rosemary and hundreds of other organisms. We know from professional core sampling that the vegetation has been growing in this bog undisturbed for 12,500 years.
Constitution plans to permanently disrupt this ecosystem in order to make a financial profit for people who do not even live in New York.
In addition, the construction of a pipeline would forever fragment a forest that has deliberately been put in trust for conservation by my family, for the longest time allowed by current New York state law. It would prevent the trust from logging timber that is the culmination of nearly 70 years worth of forestry work my father started in 1947, pays the taxes, and makes possible the conservation of the lake and buffer zone around it.
Constitution Pipeline has refused to seriously consider alternate routes that would cause far less environmental damage.
This personal story is repeated over and over for families being forced to deal with energy companies. No consideration has been given to the chaos it is causing in people's lives and finances, or the fact that there is tremendous, urgent pressure put on people to make decisions without readily available resources.
The public hearings that Constitution and FERC have held were a disgrace, seemingly designed to confuse rather than honestly inform or hear the public in general, and landowners specifically, along the proposed route.
The proposed pipeline will do nothing to improve the lives of New Yorkers. In fact, it has already deeply impoverished people whose land is devalued and who have been forced to spend time and financial resources in response to this threat.
Constitution has not come up with any convincing reasons that the pipeline is a “public need and necessity.” At the very least, they should propose it be collocated along I-88, an already disturbed corridor.
By their own statistics, this would do less environmental damage and affect fewer landowners.
Patricia Kernan is a member of the Henry S. Kernan Trust, which owns land in Delaware County in the path of the proposed Constitution Pipeline.