By Mark Boshnack
Educational meetings for a large-diameter natural gas pipeline being proposed for the region will take place in Delaware County this month.
The Constitution Pipeline Company, composed of natural gas companies Williams and Cabot Oil and Gas, has started surveying for the 120-mile pipeline in at least one town along the proposed route, Davenport Town Supervisor Dennis Valente said.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County will offer two meetings May 17 for farmers and landowners affected by the proposed pipeline.
According to the Williams website, the pipeline is designed to move gas collected at Susquehanna County, Pa., (an area involved in hydrofracking) to the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County.
The high-pressure pipeline will also pass through Broome and Chenango counties and 42.4 miles along the northern part of Delaware County. The proposed in-service date is March 31, 2015.
The meetings May 17 are specifically to address farmland/forestry issues, according to a Cooperative Extension media release.
An afternoon meeting will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. in Harpersfield at the Col. Harper Grange building at 170 Wilcox Rd. The night meeting is from 7 to 9 p.m. at Franklin Central School on Institute Street.
Speakers in panel presentations will include: Matthew Brower from state Agriculture and Markets; legal expert Chris Denton, who works with pipeline easements statewide (night meeting only); Walt Friebell, a master forester; and representatives from the gas pipeline company.
There will be no debate about natural gas exploration in New York state, because affected landowners are the priority audience, the release said. No registration is necessary.
The company has begun surveying for the pipeline in Davenport, but it is approaching the issue the wrong way if it wants to get the project done in the most efficient manner, according to Valente.
The company recently sent letters to residents along the route, including a survey permission form, to be returned by today.
Most people in the town were in favor of a similar recent proposal, but the new company is “eroding that by just telling us what they are going to do. They need to show some respect for people who own the land they want to cross,” Valente said.
Instead, within days after the letters were sent, representatives from the pipeline company were knocking on doors, with no effort at educating the public such as a town meeting or notifying the town supervisor.
By not informing Valente’s office, when residents asked him questions, he could not provide answers.
For now, he is advising residents not to sign anything before talking to a lawyer. The town attorney will be at the next town board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. May 15,* to answer questions about the issues.
When studying a route, pipeline companies typically contact many landowners along a wide study corridor to give the company flexibility to make informed decisions about a route, according to a copy of the letter that went out to homeowners, provided by Valente. He said he got it from a town property owner who lives in New Jersey.
It requests permission to survey within the boundaries of each property to identify environmental, cultural and physical conditions that might affect the project. Once a primary route has been selected, the company will notify affected landowners. Survey crews move through an area in a week or two, according to the letter.
The company has not yet filed a formal application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but the agency has been asked to begin a pre-application environmental review.
It will allow the company and FERC to consult with stakeholders such as landowners, local officials and permitting agencies to identify potential issues. Before any formal application, Williams would provide interested parties the opportunity to review the proposal and provide comments at a series of public meetings that would be held in the area.
The letter was signed by Jim Wallace, project land leader. A call to the number provided on the letter for questions was not returned and there was no response to an email.
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