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Constitution Pipeline Protest In Albany

Dozens of New Yorkers living along the proposed Constitution Pipeline route descended on New York's state Capitol today to call on the Department of Environmental Conservation to protect their land and lifestyles. 

The Constitution Pipeline would stretch from Pennsylvania through the Southern Tier and into Schoharie County, connecting with a network of other pipelines.

Protestors say the project would be an ecological disaster — and not just that one pipeline. There are others in the mix, some connecting into, some running parallel to the 124-mile "Constitution Pipeline." They say the project would impact 277 waterways, 1,000 acres of forest and farmland and 700,000 trees. Supporters of the project and ones like it argue that our energy needs aren’t decreasing and everything needs to be on the table.

Colleen McKinney says her home in Delaware County is next to land seized through eminent domain for the Constitution Pipeline.   "Not for the public good, not for the benefit of America, but to increase the profits of rich private gas corporations and their shareholders."

She argues no one in Pennsylvania, New York or New England will benefit from the fracked natural gas it would carry, since it will be going to Canada via the Iroquois Pipeline.   "With its south to north or SoNo project, the Iroquois Pipeline plans to reverse its flow, taking American gas to Canada. From there, it can be exported overseas. But here's what's really outrageous:  at the same time that the Constitution Pipeline company was claiming it would supply urgently needed cheap gas to Boston and New York, it had already signed on to the Iroquois SoNo project, so that it could export its gas to Canada. This gas is not for us.  These companies want to export it because natural gas prices in the rest of the world are much higher than they are here. Profit is their only concern."

Fingers of blame point everywhere: from alleging collusion between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the DEC to a bad decision coming from the top.  Cuomo may have endeared himself to environmental advocates by banning fracking in the state, but listen to  Anne Marie Garti, environmental attorney and founding member of Stop the Pipeline.  "What the gas pipeline did was they went to Cuomo. That's what they did. They went to Cuomo. And so then on Christmas Eve, DEC issued a notice of complete application, even though they still don't have a complete application, they still don't have all the survey information from all of these properties, we still don't have a complete environmental impact statement from all of the properties and all of the impacts on all of these things. This is a very very bad situation."

In July, 59 grassroots organizations and over 1600 citizens sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, urging him to halt construction of the Constitution Pipeline and protect the region's natural resources.

The coalition wants the DEC to deny the "401 Water Quality Certificate," which they say would stop the Constitution Pipeline dead in its tracks.

The DEC answered a request for comment by email, writing "While our authority over this project is limited by federal law, DEC is carefully and comprehensively reviewing the water certificate application to ensure New York’s water resources are protected."

A message seeking comment from the Constitution Pipeline was not immediately returned.

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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