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Center for Sustainable Rural Communities on Pipeline Approval: Unacceptable

Written By Timothy Knight on 12/3/14 | 12/3/14

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” for the proposed Constitution Pipeline. In doing so, the Federal agency essentially rejected the hundreds of comments, studies and concerns submitted by impacted landowners, communities, scientists and citizens groups. They also sent a signal to the NY State DEC and the US Army Corp of Engineers that concerns raised by those two agencies about the proposed pipeline would not be taken seriously. FERC also approved the proposed expansion of the compressor station in the Town of Wright which will facilitate the Constitution Pipeline and potentially others. By issuing the Certificate, FERC sets the stage for the seizure of private property through eminent domain to accommodate pipeline easements. Constitution may attempt to serve condemnation papers to individual landowners as early as today.

The proposed pipeline will follow a 50-60’ wide clear-cut path through Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie counties, dissecting forest, farmland, streams, wetlands and residential backyards. An estimated 1/3 of the route through Schoharie County will require blasting. Opponents have pointed out the pipeline will impact sensitive eco-systems and habitats for a wide verity of species including bald eagles and the bat colonies living in the Karst cave systems of Schoharie County, which are already threatened by “white nose syndrome” a disease that has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 6 million North American bats.

The Center for Sustainable Rural Communities submitted multiple comments to FERC opposing the pipeline including an extensive hydrogeology study and an industry standard white paper detailing the national security vulnerability of the proposed pipeline and associated compressor station. FERC dismissed the latter study essentially saying that steps were being taken to address the security issues but would not disclose what those steps are.  In response to the hundreds of environmental concerns raised, FERC deferred to “mitigation” promised by pipeline builders Cabot Oil & Gas, Williams Partners, Piedmont Natural Gas and WGL Holdings. FERC did not express concern about the safety records of Cabot and Williams, both of whom have garnered long lists of violations and fines related to drilling and pipeline operations.

Pipeline construction cannot begin until the NY State DEC conducts public hearings and grants a “401 permit.” Appeals to FERC’s decision are also likely by citizen and non-profit groups. Litigation is also possible by one or more of the hundreds of individuals and groups who have registered with FERC as “Interveners.”

Robert Nied, spokesperson for the Center issued the following statement after the FERC announcement:

“The Federal regulatory process has failed the citizens of New York. FERC has opted to ignore the health, safety, quality of life and property rights of the residents of our region and rubber stamp a destructive and unnecessary project in order to further the profits of a callus and out of control oil and gas industry. The Center will continue to fight this project and stand with those resisting its abuse of private property rights, community rights and the right of every citizen to a safe and healthy environment.”
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