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The Nation Is Watching

The AP (Associated Press) picked up the story of the offensive “Saul Ewing” letter that pressures landowners into waiving their property rights. Now, readers of dozens of news and media outlets around the United States are witness to the strong-arm bully tactics of Constitution Pipeline.

Center for Sustainable Rural Communities calls on AG to investigate threatening letters sent by Constitution Pipeline

Constitution Pipeline, emboldened by this week’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decision to issue a conditional approval of the proposed pipeline through rural New York State, has ramped up its bullying of landowners.

PELC Cease and Desist Letter to CP
December 5, 2014

PACE ENVIRONMENTAL LITIGATION CLINIC, INC urges attorneys for Constitution Pipeline to immediately retract the “Saul Ewing Letter,” and urges CP to cease and desist from any additional misleading attempts to bully and intimidate New York citizens and landowners into giving up land that rightfully belongs to them.

STP's notes on Critical Information on FERC’s Conditions
December 4, 2014

While some people are trying to convince you that FERC’s certificate means the pipeline
company can now proceed, this is far from true. All of the following conditions must be met
BEFORE construction can start.
Many of these conditions are within the landowners’ control. If you do NOT allow access to
your property, these conditions cannot be met, and construction cannot begin.
Eminent domain proceedings can be challenged until all of these conditions have been met. Read more

Constitution Pipeline receives federal approval, eminent domain power
December 3, 2014

By Julia Reischel 12/3/14 - 12:58 pm

The Constitution Pipeline received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build a 124-mile natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania through New York's Delaware and Schoharie counties on Tuesday, Dec. 2.

FERC's certificate of public convenience and necessity gives the Constitution Pipeline the power of eminent domain, which allows it to force landowners along the route to accept the pipeline's path through their property.

The pipeline's new powers are setting it up for a fight in the Catskills. Over half of the landowners along the route haven't agreed to allow the pipeline across their land. If they continue to resist, the pipeline can take them to court.

Construction can begin as soon as the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issue permits for the project, which could happen early in 2015.

According to its backers, a group of energy companies that includes Williams, Cabot Oil & Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas, and WGL Holdings, the Constitution Pipeline will create a large number of temporary construction jobs, a dozen full-time jobs after it is built, and millions of dollars in tax revenue for the counties it passes through,

It will also bring natural gas hookups to some communities and businesses in the Catskills, including Amphenol, the county's largest employer.

Eminent domain: "Ultimately, it's going to go to court"

Since first proposing the pipeline in 2012, Constitution Pipeline officials have signed easement agreements with over 50 percent of the landowners along the route.

Chris Stockton, a spokesman for the company, said that the pipeline is in dialogue with the "vast majority" of the rest of the landowners along the route. In other pipeline projects, Williams has used eminent domain powers to force easements on about 5 percent of property owners, he said.

"Now that we have the FERC order, we'll go back and make an attempt to sit down with them and reach an agreement," Stockton said. "If we can't reach an agreement with them, then ultimately it's going to go to court. That's something that we're going to try to avoid."

The pipeline will compensate any landowner forced to accept an easement in an eminent domain proceeding.

"Unprecedented resistance," opponents say

"There's going to be a lot of people forced into court," said Robert Nied, a member of the board of the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities in Schoharie County, which opposes the pipeline. He said that it's unusual for a pipeline project to have only half of the landowners along its route signed up at this stage of a project.

"The grassroots are building unprecedented landowner resistance in this case," Nied said. "Somewhere between 40 or 50 percent of the landowners have refused to sign easements."

The eminent domain power is one of the many controversial aspects of the pipeline project, which has been opposed by private individuals as well as groups like the Sierra Club, Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Stop the Pipeline. They argue that the pipeline will reduce home values, raise homeowners insurance, increase truck traffic on rural roads and harm the environment.

FERC: Public benefits outweigh costs

In its Dec. 2 order, the four FERC commissioners noted that they have received over 800 comments about the proposed pipeline, and that Constitution officials had changed about half of its proposed route in an attempt to respond to complaints.

"[We] find that the projects, if constructed and operated as described in the final [environmental impact statement], are environmentally acceptable actions," they wrote.

The public benefits that the Constitution Pipeline will provide "outweigh any adverse effects on existing shippers, other pipelines and their captive customers, and on landowners and surrounding communities," the commissioners added.

The pipeline plans to break ground on the project early in 2015, Stockton said.

But there are several more hurdles to clear before construction can begin. The DEC is expected to hold public hearings on the Constitution Pipeline in early 2015 before issuing any permit, and the chronically understaffed agency could take months to analyze the comments.

http://www.watershedpost.com/2014/constitution-pipeline-receives-federal-approval-eminent-domain-power

FERC's frustrating conditional approval
December 3, 2014

FERC's approval, as FERC itself points out, is "conditional."  This means the approval is conditional in regards to the fact that the NY State DEC must issue a 401 permit before work on the ground can begin, among other, as of yet unfullfilled conditions.  The DEC will also announce a schedule for public hearings and open an official comment period on granting this permit.  This all needs to happen before the DEC can make a decision on granting it's 401 permit. 

STP Newsletters
FERC to Issue FEIS 10/23/2014
September 23, 2014

In a recent meeting of STP, Anne Marie Garti spoke on this recent news. Outlining the steps FERC will take, she helped the audience better understand what to expect over the next few months. You can read her presentation here.

Rally reaches Statehouse, protesters meet Gov. Patrick

BOSTON — An estimated 400 to 500 people rallied on the Boston Common Wednesday,
bringing their “Stop the Pipeline” message to the Statehouse.
Speakers included local legislators, Reps. Stephen Kulik, and Denise Andrews, all
opposing Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s proposal for a nearly 300-mile pipeline that
would cut across nine Franklin County towns on its way to Dracut, north of Lowell.
Following the two-hour rally, five of its organizers met privately with Gov. Deval Patrick,
Energy and Environmental Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett, calling for their opposition to
the pipeline project and presenting them with two petitions.

Utility: ATVs damaging pipeline routes in Erie region
Published: June 22. 2014 12:01AM

So much fun, it must be illegal.

 

That's the headline of a National Fuel advertisement cautioning recreational riders to stay away from natural gas pipelines buried throughout the region.

 

The drivers of all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, cars and even trucks are traveling along pipeline rights of way in some areas and have knocked down pipeline markers, cut through locks and gates, and damaged private property, National Fuel spokeswoman Sandra James said.

 

"Vehicles also are ripping up the grass, which increases the potential for erosion, or the covering over the pipeline being washed away," James said. "And that threatens the integrity of the high-pressure transmission line itself."

 

National Fuel distributes gas through more than 6,000 miles of pipeline in Pennsylvania and New York. Most of the lines are 3 to 4 feet below ground, depending on the terrain.

 

One of those pipelines crosses mostly wooded property on Henderson Road, in the Belle Valley area of Millcreek Township. Karl and Sally Ebert inherited the 57 acres from family. Other family members own property nearby.

 

The pipeline right of way on their properties is being used as a highway, mostly by four-wheelers and other ATVs, Karl Ebert said. Gates meant to keep the vehicles out of the right of way have had locks cut off, been torched and torn down, most recently this spring. Pipeline markers have been knocked down and removed, he said.

 

Elsewhere on the property, riders have cut trees down to clear paths for vehicles, Ebert said.

 

"We've had all kind of damage to our property, including the National Fuel right of way. A couple different hillsides are eroding because of traffic from four-wheelers and ATVs," he said.

 

Riders encroaching on private property, including a pipeline right of way, can be charged with trespass by motor vehicle, criminal trespass and criminal mischief, the latter ranging from a summary violation to a felony depending on circumstances, including the extent of the property damage, Millcreek Township police Capt. Carter Mook said.

 

National Fuel will press charges against trespassers to recoup the cost of damages, and to save customers from paying the tab, James said.

 

"If a rider damages the right of way and is caught, he will be held responsible for restoration costs, including things like fence repair, topsoil replacement, manpower and equipment costs, and reseeding," James said.

 

The rights of way can be dangerous to more than riders' pocketbooks.

 

"There are also valves above ground in some areas that have been hit and damaged by riders. If a vehicle hits that at any speed, riders could be hurt by them," James said.

 

While pipeline routes can seem like attractive pathways through fields and woods, they were created for the placement, safe operation and maintenance of natural gas transmission lines, James said.

 

"They go through private property and are not intended for recreational purposes. Driving on them is illegal, and dangerous," she said.

 

National Fuel officials ask anyone who spots a vehicle on a pipeline right of way to call police or the company's security department, at (888) 634-6344, Ext. 221.

 

 

 

VALERIE MYERS can be reached at 878-1913 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNmyers.