Otsego and Delaware county residents are obviously concerned about natural gas issues. Whether it be the decision to allow hydraulic fracturing or the private construction of a natural gas pipeline through our area, our voices demand to be heard, no matter what our opinions may be.
Residents crowd town board meetings, forums and public comment hearings to discuss their views, making sure we will be remembered when decision time comes around in Albany or Washington, D.C.
Regulators — may they be the state Department of Environmental Conservation or the Federal Emergency Regulatory Commission — should seek public comments from those who will be affected by their decisions. We are taxpayers, and we want some input into what we could face in the future.
That’s why it’s hard to understand why FERC decided not to offer environmental scoping hearings on the proposed Constitution Pipeline in Otsego and Delaware counties as part of its information-gathering visit to the area.
The recent route proposed by Cabot Oil & Gas and Williams Partners would put significant stretches of the natural gas transmission system near Interstate 88, affecting many residents and property owners in Otsego and Delaware counties.
But rather than offer logical sites for the hearings — higher-population centers such as Oneonta, Cooperstown, Sidney or Delhi — FERC went with Afton, Schoharie and New Milford, Pa. These communities likely will be affected by the pipeline, but why not offer hearings in locations where more people can easily attend?
An area resident said she was told by FERC that the agency was unable to find any space in Oneonta capable of accommodating 33 to 400 people. This concept is preposterous. In a city with two colleges’ worth of lecture halls and auditoriums, not to mention the Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center, local churches and clubs, it’s inconceivable that FERC could not find suitable accommodations.
In response, FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said the agency is not required to offer the meetings, and that the events are “a public service.” She said the commission “wants to get as many comments as possible.”
The hearings are not serving the public well when FERC officials seemed to select hearing locations based on points on a map, rather than looking at where the population centers are.
FERC has until Oct. 9 to make this right by offering a hearing in Delaware and/or Otsego.
In the meantime, residents can email FERC about the pipeline at www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp using docket number PF12-9-000.