SCHOHARIE — Williams Partners, the company in charge of the planning of the proposed Constitution Pipeline, came under intense criticism Tuesday night from several speakers who urged federal regulators to refuse to license the natural gas transmission system.
Schoharie Town Supervisor Gene Milone, citing the fact his town is still recovering from last year’s devastating flood, said many people are still not back in their homes and should not have to now worry about an industrial pipeline traversing their property.
Speaking at a scoping hearing organized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Milone accused the pipeline planners of “creating complete hysteria throughout this county.”
Referring to Williams executives with whom he has met, Milone said: “Never have they recognized the poor timing of this project.”
While those who took their turn at the microphone were overwhelmingly opposed to the construction of the 121-mile pipeline, the project found a friend in the person of Worcester Town Board member Dave Parker, also involved in a local pro-drilling landowners’ group.
Parker said the project dovetails with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vision for a network of “energy highways.” Parker, who had to fend off jeers from the crowd of more than 250 people, said the Constitution Pipeline “fits the definition of energy highway to a T.”
He also said that about 40 local businesses in Worcester could benefit from the building of the pipeline.
Parker said an alternate pathway that would put the project closer to Interstate 88, known as Route M, “makes perfect sense” because it would impact only a small number of property owners in his town.
But the federal officials heard a decidedly different view from Rene Perrone, 80, of Schoharie, who called himself the owner of the largest privately owned tract in his county, with a parcel of 577 acres. Noting his grandchildren enjoy hunting and fishing on his land, he said: “It frightens my entire family because you’re going a mile across my property. We don’t like the idea.”
Another speaker, David Hutchinson, a retired Hartwick College geology professor, urged FERC to take note that experts now believe the Marcellus Shale is capable of producing far less gas than initially projected.
With critics of the project outnumbering advocates speaking at the hearing by about 10 to 1, Hutchinson also pointed out that Route M would cut through the Riddell State Park in Otsego County where some trees are more than 120 years old. (The pipeline planners said that portion of the route would be revised after The Daily Star reported that the alternative pathway would cut a swath through the state park.)
Blenheim resident Don Airey said the large pipeline would spawn “hundreds of miles of feeder pipelines,” all of which could have harmful impacts on the environment. He also argued the region’s tourism-based businesses would decline if the pipeline is built.
“People don’t travel to see a pipeline,” Airey said.
Robert Nied of Richmondville said several senior citizens have vowed to do whatever is necessary to stop the pipeline from being constructors, including blocking bulldozers. “I am 61 years old, and I am one of those people,“ he said, sparking applause from the crowd. “I will not step aside.”
Former state Secretary of State Gail Schaefer, a Blenheim resident, held aloft an artistic portrait of the late Bobby Hitchcock, a Blenheim volunteer firefighter who was one of two people killed when a propane gas line exploded two decades ago.
Noting that the Schoharie Valley is one of the nation’s top 10 farmland regions, she argued placing such an industrial project in the county would be an indication of being “truly being unwise in our public policy.”
Chris Brake of Oneonta, noting he is planning to open an organic food business, said Route M would come within 200 feet of his backyard and leave his organic certification status in question.
“This essentially puts us in the natural gas supply business,“ Brake said. “We don’t want to be in this business.“