On April 1, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) led a public hearing to discuss the future of the Constitution Pipeline project. Around one hundred people, both opponents and proponents of the project, offered to voice their opinions on the controversial plan.
The Constitution Pipeline is a 124-mile long pipe that is 33-inches in diameter. The pipe can transport up to 650,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day from the Appalachian supplies in northern Pennsylvania to homes in the northeast. It is estimated that the amount of natural gas that the pipeline could supply would be enough to serve nearly three million homes. Currently, the pipeline runs from Susquehanna County, PA to the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, NY. The proposed line would run into Broome, Chenango and Delaware Counties in NY before ending in Schoharie County. But before the pipeline can be constructed, Constitution Pipeline Company is required to obtain a federal Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from FERC.
This is where the Constitution Pipeline project has hit a wall. Citizens who are against the pipeline are speaking out, trying to persuade FERC not to license the project. Opponents of the pipeline cite the likely risk of lowered property value, fossil fuels’ link to global warming and the potential for pipe accidents as reasons to not approve the project. Andy Mason of the Delaware Otsego Audubon Society, said the pipeline pathway will leave forest habitats fragmented and will pose “a clear and present threat” to bird populations.
Proponents of the pipeline, however, say that job creation, energy independence from Russia and the Middle East and the potential for lower taxes are viable reasons to go through with the project. The plan’s supporters also say that pipeline safety has improved greatly over the last decade, although Angelina Martinez, a BOCES student who is trying to keep the pipeline from passing through her school’s campus, presented a list of 294 commercial pipeline accidents since the year 2000 in a separate hearing. The financial benefits certainly seem enticing to some. Leo McAllister, Cobleskill town supervisor, said the pipeline would bring $4 million in new property tax revenue and more than $1 million in school taxes.
Clean-burning natural gas produces one-third of all electric generation and heats about half the homes in the US, and these current numbers continue to rise. The expansion of natural gas pipelines could generate jobs and stimulate the economy, although many citizens and environmentalists have pointed out that investments in solar, wind and water energy could have the same benefits with less risk. FERC is expected to make its decision soon as to whether or not the risks outweigh the benefits.