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Letter to the Editor: Constitution Pipeline "Unnecessary"

Written By Editor on 12/3/13 | 12/3/13

Editor's Note: The Schoharie County Planning Commission met yesterday and discussed the proposed Wright Interconnect Station that will serve as a pivotal byway in the Constitution Pipeline's current plan. For more information please refer to our original article.

Dear Editor:
The poll on the proposed Constitution Pipeline is a terrific idea but the stated premise of that poll, “the likelihood of the pipeline coming in appears to be growing,” is simply not accurate. In fact, as the regulatory process associated with the pipeline becomes increasingly complex and fraught with challenges, the likelihood that the pipeline will be built diminishes.
Both the Army Corp of Engineers and the NY State DEC have erected significant roadblocks to the project by requiring that Constitution justify why it won’t route the pipeline along one of the many existing pipeline right-of-ways, requiring that surveys be completed on all impacted properties (something that is currently impossible because of landowner resistance) and insisting that Constitution bore under, rather than trench through or go over, nearly 80 stream crossings (a technique that portends exponential construction cost increases and considerable delays).
Nearly 75% of impacted in landowners in Delaware County and 50% of impacted landowners in Schoharie County have thus far refused to sign easements, demonstrating a unprecedented level of community resistance to a pipeline industry accustomed to getting 97% of landowners to sign on the dotted line.
The opposition to the pipeline is well-organized and coordinated with multiple organizations working collaboratively to challenge all aspects of the proposal, particularly the multi-county Stop the Pipeline group which has secured pro-bono legal representation from the prestigious law firm Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic. Stop the Pipeline has also raised nearly $20,000 in the last month alone to fund the hiring of subject matter experts to testify to the inaccuracies of Constitutions environmental reports.
The Center for Sustainable Rural Communities, a non-profit advocacy organization, has received a national grant to fund education and outreach in opposition to the pipeline proposal. Towns and Villages have passed resolutions opposing the pipeline, elected officials have submitted formal comments to FERC against the proposal and the Cobleskill-Richmondville School Board has rejected an easement offer from Constitution that would have routed the pipeline through the BOCES campus in Schoharie. The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors has called for a comprehensive impact analysis that includes an examination of the possible build-out of a fracking infrastructure before approval of the pipeline is considered.
More and more landowners are realizing that even if the pipeline is eventually approved, they are in a much better position if they refuse to sign easements and force the company to take them to court to take their property under eminent domain.  In court, landowners will have an opportunity to demonstrate financial losses far greater than the pipeline company would be willing to acknowledge while trying to intimidate those landowners across their kitchen tables. Local committees have been established to identify and refer qualified eminent domain lawyers to landowners willing to stand and fight.
Finally, as a counterpoint to intimidation and pressure tactics employed by landsmen working for the pipeline company, the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities has established a Landowner Response Team which is available to landowners by calling 1-800-795-1467. Trained members of that team can assist landowners in documenting harassment, trespass or other transgressions by survey crews and pipeline representatives and serve as witnesses to such activity if the opportunity for litigation presents itself.
Constitution is proposing to build a pipeline that is unnecessary, in a region that does not want it, by taking private property without just compensation.  In response, the vast majority of area residents have said no, have organized to prevent it, have expended their energy and opened their wallets to fight it and are growing less and less intimidated by the pipeline company threats and rhetoric. The probability of the Constitution Pipeline being build is not growing but rather, the opposition and resistance to it certainly is.
Bob Nied
Center for Sustainable Rural Communities
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