By Sue Heavenrich, The Marcellus Effect
Today the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation announced it is seeking public comments on the Draft State Permit Applications for proposed construction of the Interstate Constitution Pipeline. Public comments will be accepted through Jan. 30, 2015
The public is invited to comment on permit applications the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) received for the proposed, federally regulated Constitution Pipeline and an upgrade to the Iroquois Wright Compressor station in Schoharie County that is part of the project.
The 30-inch Constitution Pipeline is a proposed interstate natural gas pipeline that would traverse 124 miles though Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie counties, transporting 650,000 dekatherms of gas per day – enough to serve approximately 3 million homes.
Just last month, November 15, more than 200 people converged on Ithaca College to discuss how communities can protect their interests in the face of development from pipelines, compressor stations, and other fracking infrastructure. Pipelines represent a huge investment in continuing to burn fossil fuels to power our economy – a $21 billion investment in pipeline development for moving gas extracted from Marcellus shale alone, said environmental lawyer David Slottje. Overall, he said, current estimates point to building 15,000 miles of pipeline each year between now and 2035. Not the sort of investment a company makes for a “bridge fuel”, he noted.
The Federal Energy Regulatory commission (FERC) and NY State Public Service Commission (PSC) are in charge of big projects, such as pipelines. The major difference, especially important in the case of pipelines, is that FERC decisions grant eminent domain whereas PSC doesn’t. Which agency has oversight also depends on whether a pipeline is crossing state borders or connecting to an interstate pipeline, and how big it is.
While transmission lines are regulated, “gathering lines” and those carrying gas at pressures below 125 pounds per square inch (psi), or that are shorter than 1,000 feet fall into the unregulated category.
The Constitution Pipeline is only one of the pipelines scheduled for this area. There’s also the “Millennium Phase-1 North-South Upstate Pipeline Connector”, locally referred to as the “I-81 Pipeline”. This is a 24-inch, high-pressure pipeline slated to run from Johnson City in Broome County north along I-81 to Syracuse. A pipeline that large needs 75-foot easements, she said – a large swath across people’s property.
According to Delaware Riverkeeper, a 100-foot wide right-of-way translates into twelve acres of disturbed land for every mile of pipeline. People need to consider the impacts along the entire length of these pipelines. But instead, some pipeline companies are breaking down their project to look like shorter pipeline projects so that FERC doesn’t see assessments for cumulative damage along the entire route.
Because the proposed Constitution pipeline and compressor station upgrade are components of an Interstate Natural Gas Transmission project, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was responsible for conducting an environmental review of the project and has the authority to approve the pipeline route. FERC issued a final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in October, but additional federal reviews and approvals for the project also are necessary. You can read the FEIS at: http://elibrary.FERC.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20141024-4001
DEC maintains the authority to review applications for specific permits and approvals. These include an Air Title V permit for the proposed compressor station upgrade, as well as a Water Quality Certification, a Protection of Waters permit, a Water Withdrawal permit and a Freshwater Wetlands permit for state-protected wetlands and adjacent areas for the pipeline installation.
Comments will be accepted on the permit applications from Dec. 24, 2014 to Jan. 30, 2015. Comments can be submitted to:
Stephen M. Tomasik
DEC – Division of Environmental Permits
625 Broadway, 4th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-1750
Copies of the FEIS and DEC permit application documents can be viewed online at: http://www.constitutionpipeline.com/
Read more at The Marcellus Effect