Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25, 2012

Sparks fly at local pipeline hearing

In an auditorium packed with opponents of hydraulic fracturing, Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller drew hoots and boos Wednesday night when he contended there is “no connection” between plans to build the $750 million Constitution pipeline and the controversy over shale gas drilling.
Speaking at the fourth and final federal scoping hearing on the pipeline project, Miller was interrupted several times by jeers as he tried to defend the proposed natural gas transmission system, arguing it has been unfairly entwined with the controversy over hydrofracking.
Urging his hecklers to let him speak, he insisted: “Pipelines are safe — they pose no threats to our lakes.”
Miller, noting he personally opposes fracking, said he backs the pipeline because he believes it will create jobs and make low-cost natural gas available to the region. He also said he believes the pipeline would be “less intrusive” than Interstate 88.
But in the first hour and 40 minutes of the hearing held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center, Miller was the lone voice in favor of the pipeline.
Before numerous landowners who own property that would potentially by traversed by the pipeline argued it would damage the environment and hurt their property values, several local elected officials registered their opposition to the project.
“It may be completely unnecessary to start with,” contended Town of Otsego Board Member Julie Huntsman. She called on FERC to “do due diligence” in examining whether existing pipelines could carry the gas to the locales where the pipeline planners — Williams Partners and Cabot Oil and Gas — say they want to send it: the Boston and New York City markets.
Sharply disagreeing with Miller’s claims, Otsego County Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, the new deputy chairman of the county Democratic Committee, told the FERC panel that he sees the project as “inexorably tied to fracking and liquified natural gas export.”
His fellow county Rep. Gary Koutnik, D-City of Oneonta, also argued that FERC should consider the pipeline project as being linked to the energy industry’s appetite for expanded hydrofracking, pointing to statements earlier this year by the chief executive officer of Williams, Alan Armstong.
Armstrong, he noted, was quoted in a Williams press release aimed at the investor community as stating: “We’re putting together the kind of infrastructure that makes drilling in the Marcellus (Shale) even more desirable for producers because we provide large-scale infrastructure solutions that connect producers’ natural gas and natural gas liquids to the best markets.”
The county board that includes Koutnik and Kosmer earlier this month backed a resolution proclaiming support for the economic benefits that the county could accrue if the pipeline were to be partially built in Otsego County near the I-88 corridor. The two opposed the resolution. Two members of the same board who favor the pipeline, Rep. James Powers, R-Butternuts, and Pauline Koren, R-Milford, were in the audience Wednesday nigh but opted not to take advantage of a protocol that allowed elected officials to speak before other citizens.
Milford Town Supervisor Chris Harmon, a Democrat and a farmer who rode into office last year on an anti-fracking platform, told FERC that his town board this month passed a resolution in opposition to the pipeline — even though the proposed pathway would not run through the town.
Darla Youngs, executive director of the Otsego County Conservation Association, urged FERC to consider alternatives to permitting a new pipeline, such as promoting greater development of wind and solar-power projects. She said the federal agency should examine the implications such a project would have on property value and the ability of property owners to to maintain their insurance policies.
Landowner James Baldo of the town of Oneonta said he initially gave his approval to a pipeline representative to conduct a survey of his property after he was told that the line would cross a nearby ridge, but would not dissect his property. However, when he viewed the latest map for the alternative route, he saw that the line was not running across the ridge but cutting through his land.
“It doesn’t seem right that I was misled and misinformed by a representative of the pipeline people,” he said.
Also voicing staunch opposition to the project was Richmondville landowner Kimberly Merenz, who noted she works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture but was not representing that agency. She said installing the pipeline could lead to serious soil erosion and produce groundwater contamination. Merenz also noted that there have been 19 minor earthquakes recorded within a few miles of the site where a related compressor station would be build in the town of Wright, and that the region experienced one earthquake that registered a magnitude of 4.1.
The FERC panel also listened as William Cooke, a Schoharie County hog farmer and activist with Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the project would end up benefiting energy consumers in China, Korean and Japan at the same time that it is “going to crash our property values.” he also argued the federal agency shouldn’t trust a gas industry that has been cited for hundreds of health, safety and environmental violations in Pennsylvania.
“This is New York — and we will stand and we will fight,” Cooke said.
Another pipeline foe, Barbara Loeffler of Davenport, said the region thrives because of its abundance of clean water. But fracking, she argued, requires the usage of millions of gallons of water.
“Oneonta will be a dust bowl without water,” she said.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC Docket No. PF12-9-000
On October 24, 2012, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) will hold an additional public scoping meeting for Constitution Pipeline Company’s (Constitution) Constitution Pipeline Project. This notice also extends the scoping period for the project, which will now close on November 9, 2012. The project would consist of a 120.6-mile-long natural gas pipeline in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania; and Broome, Chenango, Delaware, and Schoharie Counties, New York. FERC staff will conduct this public scoping meeting as part of our preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project. The scoping meeting is designed to provide the public with an opportunity to offer verbal comments on the project and on the issues they believe should be addressed in the EIS. More information about this project and the Commission’s EIS process is available in the Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Planned Constitution Pipeline Project, Request for Comments on Environmental Issues, and Notice of Public Scoping Meetings (NOI), issued on September 7, 2012. The NOI also provides details on how to submit written comments in lieu of or in addition to verbal comments on the project1. We ask that you submit your comments so that we receive them by November 9, 2012. Constitution representatives will be present one hour before the meeting with maps of the potential routes. The additional public scoping meeting is scheduled as follows:
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 7:00-10:00 pm EDT Foothills Performing Arts & Civic

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Louis W. Allstadt – From Supporter to Skeptic on New York State Fracking

DEC Not Up To The Job – Oil & Gas Industry Influences Regulators

Louis W. Allstadt
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Former Mobil Oil Corp. executive Louis W. Allstadt did not start out as an anti-fracking activist. He had to analyze the issue and then switch sides.
Initially, he bought into the natural gas industry’s gaudy promises that high-volume horizontal hydrofracturing could work economic miracles in rural upstate New York. He wrote in a 2009 newspaper opinion article that gas drilling “could provide enormous quantities of clean-burning natural gas with great economic benefits” to the state.
But after digging deeper, Allstadt veered away from the party line.
Now he is convinced the economic prospects are largely hype and that the state’s environmental regulators are disturbingly unprepared to deal with the side effects of such an invasive industrial activity.
“It’s a bad idea for New York State,” Allstadt said in recent interview, echoing detailed letters he has written to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials.