Pipeline builders have big plans for upstate NY

In recent weeks, two different companies have publicly discussed plans for natural gas pipelines that would cross through the Leatherstocking region and northern Catskills in upstate New York. The prospect of a major new natural gas pipeline in the region has caused some uproar among local officials who fear the specter of land rights being taken by eminent domain.

Either pipeline, if built, would connect gas producing facilities in Pennsylvania to existing interstate natural gas pipelines, with the goal of getting more Marcellus shale gas to markets in New York and New England.

One pipeline, dubbed the "Constitution Pipeline," was announced yesterday by Cabot Oil & Gas and Williams Partners LP. From the press release:

Deemed the "Constitution Pipeline" this high pressure pipeline will be capable of moving at least 500,000 Mcf per day from the heart of Cabot's Marcellus acreage in Susquehanna County, PA to interconnect with both Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Schoharie County, NY.

Another company also has very similar pipeline plans in the works: El Paso Corp., owner of the existing Tennessee Gas Pipeline. Gannett reporter Steve Reilly wrote about El Paso's plans earlier this week.

Local officials blindsided by pipeline plans

On February 7, representatives of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (owned by El Paso Corp.) recently met with several Schoharie County town supervisors to discuss their pipeline plans. Today, on an interview aired by radio outlet WAMC, Schoharie supervisor Gene Milone talked at length about that meeting, and about his efforts to reach out to 22 property owners in the town whose land is currently being eyed by Tennessee Gas pipeline developers. (The whole interview is well worth a listen, and can be found here.)

"It was kind of a bombshell that was dropped on us that day," Milone told WAMC.

Milone told WAMC that in the meeting, the developers made it clear that if they encountered resistance from local property owners, they would seek to have the federal government exercise eminent domain powers.

The town and village of Schoharie were hard-hit by the Irene and Lee floods, and the town's Main Street still bears witness to the incredible devastation wrought by the flooding last summer. Milone said he thought the pipeline builders might be seizing an opportunity to push a project through with minimal opposition.

"The timing couldn't be worse for those of us who are representing the communities that suffered this setback," Milone told the Watershed Post earlier today. "I think they truly realized we are at a point of vulnerability right now."

Milone said that he is seeking for the final route for the pipeline to keep far from homes and smaller parcels of land, and for local residents to have the opportunity to get natural gas from the pipeline.

Two pipelines in the works -- but which will win out?

Blogger Andy Leahy, who runs a pro-drilling landowner website called NY Shale Gas Now, has written about both pipeline proposals in detail, and has posted preliminary maps for both routes.

Leahy writes that upstate officials and media outlets are confusing the two pipelines, and that only one is likely to be built:

In either PA-NY interconnect case, which will be an interstate case, publicly employed specialists at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will be fully empowered through a mind-numbingly involved process to make the ultimate decisions regarding "public need," and other issues, before construction.

Just that part is likely to take nearly two years.

Upstate media people — rather than immediately seeking to rally the forces of NIMBYism, as is their reflexive habit — should instead be reporting all the facts, getting them straight, and asking such fundamental questions as whether TGP's plan will soon have to be quietly withdrawn as dead in the water, given that leading NEPA natural gas producer $COG is on board with the other plan.

From a map Leahy has posted, it appears that Cabot-Williams's Constitution Pipeline would begin in Pennsylvania, cross Broome County, pass through the southeast corner of Chenango County, run along the southern edge of Otsego County north of the Susquehanna River, and then cross Schoharie County to connect to the existing Iroquois and Tennessee pipelines.

El Paso's proposed Northeast Exchange pipeline (again, from maps posted on Leahy's blog) appears to follow a similar route, but run south of the Susquehanna River. The Northeast Exchange pipeline would cross through Broome County, but rather than going through Chenango and Otsego Counties, the pipeline would run along the northern part of Delaware County, then cross Schoharie County to connect to the existing pipelines.

It does appear that local news outlets are confusing the two. In a story about the issue today, the Daily Star quotes Milone (who met with El Paso Corp. representatives) but refers only to Cabot and Williams's proposed Constitution Pipeline and unnamed "gas industry representatives."