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Public Forum On E37 Pipeline Held In East Greenbush

National Grid's proposed natural gas pipeline that would run from Bethlehem to North Greenbush was the subject of a public forum Wednesday night.

Around 90 people turned out at the East Greenbush Public Library, a 50-50 mix of those for and against the energy conduit. Activists promoted the forum as a way to become better educated about a “environmental danger,” specifically targeting the project as a "fracked gas pipeline." National Grid counters that it does not participate in natural gas shale fracking.

If built, the 7.3-mile, $70 million dollar pipeline would originate in Bethlehem, run beneath the Hudson River, cut through East Greenbush and terminate in North Greenbush near the Bell Top School.

Activists believe the initiative, officially known as "Pipeline E37 Reliability and Resiliency Project," will disrupt neighborhoods and contribute to the climate crisis.

Becky Meier is with Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline and Community Advocates for a Sustainable Environment.   "We are worried about the continuation of our planet. Gas is methane and methane is actually more destructive to the environment than carbon dioxide. We would like to phase out gas. So at the time when we're going to phase things out, we shouldn't be building brand new infrastructure that actually will be paid for over 65 years in the future. So we believe that there are a variety of different renewables with gas and electric and geothermal that can meek whatever gas they're worried about. They're talking about a 1.1 percent increase in need for gas. We think that can be filled with renewables."

Meier says residents would be paying for the pipeline long after natural gas becomes obsolete as an energy source.

National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella says the utility is already researching alternative energy sources...   "...and the infrastructure would still have to be there for that. We've been talking to farmers lately in the area about using waste materials from dairy cows that can be converted into natural gas."

Stella maintains the pipeline is necessary because the use of natural gas has grown more than people realize.

He addressed environmentalists and others up in arms over the "fracked gas" and the "fracking fields" they say have compromised health and happiness in communities in Pennsylvania, its point of origin.   "Today, yes, there is fracked gas in that pipeline that we do provide, but we're looking at other sources and we know that in the future, that energy and that gas that we put in the system has to be sustainable. As far as I'm concerned I think that we have a lot more in common with the folks who are opposed to this project than we even realize."

Bill Walsh is district manager at Operating Engineers local 158, which supports the pipeline project.   "It's not a fracking issue. This is basically a necessity. This is to basically make sure that there's enough gas for the paying customers for Rensselaer County and for this immediate area for gas customers for National Grid."

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Credit National Grid
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Meier contends that National Grid's "worry" over service interruptions is unfounded. She bolsters her anti-pipeline stance with an allusion to global conflict.    "During World War II people made sacrifices for the greater good. And even if Hitler had won the world would have continued. The world may not continue. And we can't just go around talking about whether something's gonna cost a little bit more per gallon or not. And everybody, yeah the governor, Paris Agreements, most of the world is very concerned about this. And as we're concerned, we have to do something."

National Grid is seeking to gain Public Service Commission approval to begin construction of the pipeline this year. Information sessions and public hearings were held in April. The towns of Bethlehem and East Greenbush officially oppose E37.  CASE urges residents to contact their legislators.

A final decision by the PSC is expected by the end of the year.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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