New pipeline company wants compressors in Franklin, Schoharie

Above: Jan Mulroy of Franklin, an opponent of gas pipelines and compressor stations, delivers a petition containing over 500 signatures of like-minded residents to the Franklin Town Council. Photo by Robert Cairns. 

A farm in the Delaware County town of Franklin could be the site of a new natural gas compressor station, while the Schoharie County town of Schoharie could be home to two of them.

The stations would be placed along the route of a proposed new section of the Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline, a project of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company LLC, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan.

The new section of the NED pipeline is slated to run along a route from Pennsylvania to Schoharie County that is similar to that of the Constitution Pipeline, which received federal approval last year and is now awaiting state permits.

In a June 1 letter (see below) sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), J. Curtis Moffatt, the deputy general counsel and vice president of the Tennesse Gas Pipeline Company, filed descriptions of nine proposed compressor sites that would dot the NED pipeline along its route from New Milford, Pennsylvania to its endpoints in New England.

In Delaware County, a “supply path mid station” is proposed for Franklin. According to the description in the letter, the station would include a 10-acre facility on a 117-acre site. It would include a compressor unit, a compressor building, an office for pipeline company personnel and “ancillary facilities.”

The letter says that an agreement on an option to purchase the land is “in negotiation.”

Above: This aerial view, from paperwork filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, shows a proposed natural gas compressor station site in the Delaware County town of Franklin.

Town of Franklin Supervisor Jeff Taggart has identified the site as a farm owned by Benjamin and Laura Haney on Otego Road.

Franklin residents, who had already organized to oppose any compressor stations in their town, turned out in force at a town council meeting on Tuesday, June 2 to insist that the counsel do something to stop it.

Approximately 50 people crowded the meeting at the Treadwell Fire Hall to present petitions calling on the board to take a number of actions, including making an “unqualified” statement of opposition to a compressor.

A group of residents calling themselves Compressor Free Franklin presented petitions containing 531 signatures that called on the board to oppose a gas compressor and to enact a noise ordinance that would govern the noise output from such a station. A Franklin Central School student presented a similar petition, signed by 69 students of the high school and middle school.

Jan Mulroy spoke on behalf of the compressor opponents and handed the petitions to Taggart. Local residents accused the board of doing “very little” to oppose pipelines and compressor stations.

Don Hebbard, an organizer of the opposition group, said, “We need to let the gas companies know that Franklin is not going to to lay down, roll over and play dead.”

He cited statistics in a report that claims emissions from a compressor in Texas were up to 100 times the permitted levels for some chemicals.

Hebbard also expressed concerns about blasting of rock during the construction of the line and the effects of blasting on water wells. He gave copies of an Albany County ordinance on blasting to the board members and said, “I think it's something the town could very well want to look at as a way of protecting its citizens.”

Resident Liz Serrao called for Kinder Morgan to hold a public meeting in Franklin, and said that some “amazing people” did not know pipelines were planned.

Taggart found that hard to believe.

“If people don't know there's a pipeline coming to Franklin, they're hermits,” he said. “The pipeline has been in the newspaper for six months, eight months, 10 months. We've been talking about it since last summer.”

Taggart also said that most of the compressor opponents have never seen a compressor. He said that he had taken trips to see them in operation, and that they could do the same.

Taggart also said that the compressor opponents do not represent the entire town. He noted that the town had a population of 2,400 people at the time of the 2010 U.S. Census, and that 600 of them, including the students, had signed the petitions. “You don't want to work with us. You want everybody to work with you,” he said.

He added, however, that “good, passionate people” are opposed to the compressor station and said, “I'm still not sold on it.”

In response to a question about the monetary value of gas infrastructure to the town, Taggart said the proposed pipelines would be assessed at $9 million each, while the compressor station would be assessed at approximately $20 million. “You're adding almost $40 million to our tax base,” he said.

He estimated that the new assessment would decrease taxes for the entire town by 10-to-15 percent, but said, “I'm not doing it for the money.”

Plans for the town of Schoharie include a “supply path trail station” on a 91-acre parcel of land and a “market path head station” on a 64-acre parcel.

The supply path station would include one compressor unit, a compressor building and ancillary facilities. The market path station would include two compressor units, a compressor building, ancillary facilities and metering facilities.

Options to purchase both sites have been executed, according to the letter to FERC.

The Center for Sustainable Rural Communities, a group that has campaigned against both the Constitution Pipeline and the NED Pipeline, issued a news release last week saying that the compressor facility sites planned for Schoharie will be located west and downhill of the existing Wright compressor station, which is scheduled to be substantially expanded to accommodate the Constitution Pipeline.

The group claims that the operation of the facilities “is expected to have a substantive impact on the air quality of downwind communities” and says that studies, including those conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, have noted elevated emissions in communities adjacent to operational compressor stations.

Those emissions, the group says, include toluene, nitrogen dioxide, methylene chloride, benzene, propane, ethyl-benzene, n-butane, n-hexane, naphthalene and nitrous-acid styrene.

“If both the Constitution and NED pipelines are ultimately approved and constructed they will transform the character of our rural communities,” the news release states. “They will impact all aspects of our environment including our air and water quality. Perhaps most concerning is that this dramatic industrialization of farmland, forest and fields is likely to be just the beginning, as additional pipelines are proposed and spawn compressed natural gas plants, liquefied natural gas facilities and potentially gas fired power plants, with little regard for the health, safety or property rights of those who live here.”

According to Joe Mahoney of the Daily Star, 38 people attended a Compressor Free Franklin meeting on Thursday, June 11 in Franklin to discuss emissions from the proposed compressor station.

Taggart, the town of Franklin supervisor, and Benjamin and Laura Haney, the couple who own the land where the Franklin compressor station is slated to be built, recently travelled to Pennsylvania to visit similar compressor stations, according to the Mountain Eagle:

Taggart said Tuesday they went inside one of the buildings housing the compressor and it was is pretty noisy. However, outside the building, even within a few feet, it was relatively quiet. The concerns expressed by a number of residents opposed to the compressor station seemed to be moot, according to Taggart. “We all could talk easily and without having to raise our voices.”

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, Northeast Energy Direct Project, Compressor Station Locations -- June 1, 2015 letter

Below: Video of the June 11 meeting of Compressor Free Franklin, shot by Jessica Vecchione of Vecc Videography.