May 16, 2012
By JOE MAHONEY Staff Writer
Davenport Town Supervisor Dennis Valente said he was assured by representatives of the proposed Constitution Pipeline on Tuesday that the natural gas transmission project developers will make every effort to avoid taking properties through eminent domain.
Before the meeting Tuesday afternoon, Valente was highly critical of the project, saying local leaders were being kept in the dark about surveying methods.
However, in an interview following a 2½-hour meeting with pipeline representatives, Valente said many of his concerns were directly addressed, and he was told that the developers will work more closely with local leaders and residents who could be affected.
“They showed us a willingness to open up,” Valente said. “They cleared up most of the issues we had about the survey. It turns out the word ‘survey’ is a lot broader than most of us thought.”
He said the initial survey will assess potential environmental effects, followed by one that examines potential cultural impacts.
After those are completed, he said, the pipeline developers will begin to “whittle down” the planned corridor along which the pipeline will run, from northeast Pennsylvania before linking with the existing Iroquois pipeline in the Schoharie town of Wright.
The meeting with Valente came as Constitution Pipeline representatives prepare for two public meetings on the project, which will be Thursday in Delaware County.
The first meeting will run from 1 to 3 p.m. in Harpersfield at the Col. Harper Grange building at 170 Wilcox Road. From 7 to 9 p.m., the representatives will meet with the public at Franklin Central School on Institute Street.
Valente said he was pleased to hear from the representatives — who included John Faso, the Republican Party’s candidate for governor in 2006 — that the venture, launched by partners Williams LLC and Cabot Oil and Gas, will try to minimize taking any property by eminent domain. He said Faso “seems to have the best idea of how government works in small towns” and displayed an understanding for why town governments need to be kept in the loop on such projects.
Williams spokeswoman Julie Gentz said the company that will be the principal owner of the planned pipeline said the goal of this week’s hearings is “to make sure everyone’s questions are answered.”
Construction estimates call for the pipeline to be completed and in service by March 31, 2015, she said. The large-diameter pipeline would send gas gathered in Susquehanna County, Pa., to the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County.
Valente said he was advised the pipeline will run through approximately 1,400 separate parcels along that route. It would also traverse Chenango and Broome counties.
Gentz said a formal application for the transmission route has not yet been submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate pipelines.
Valente said he was also pleased that the Constitution Pipeline plans to hold public informational sessions on the project beginning in July.
However, further north along the tentative pipeline route, Schoharie Town Supervisor Gene Milone said he was troubled that the pipeline developers have been sending letters to property owners, notifying them that surveyors will be making visits to their land, but have not been sharing the list of recipients of those letters with local and county government.
Milone predicted that the pipeline will be installed regardless of public opinion.
“I see all kinds of green lights that this is going to happen,” he said. “You are at their mercy because the (federal) government is supporting the entire effort. The best we can do is provide a path that provides the least amount of problems for our residents.”
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