Times Union Op Ed Tuesday, December 15: Pipeline Need to Hear “No”

Pipeline Need to Hear “No”
It’s time for politicians to wake up to what New Yorkers who have opposed the “Constitution” and Northeast Energy Direct pipelines already know. Regardless of what name you use, it’s the same pipeline. It’s the same fight.
Both projects threaten to forever harm New York’s environment by ripping through forests, streams, fields, and farms of the northern Catskills. Both threaten to victimize the same landowners, using eminent domain granted by a rubber-stamp agency — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — to take private property for corporate profit. Both threaten to ruin rural communities with air pollution and industrialization. And both threaten our planet with climate catastrophe, feeding a growing addiction to fossil fuels at home and abroad while undermining the necessary shift to renewables. Indeed, through most of New York, the biggest difference between the two pipelines is the distance between them — about 50 feet.
Yet, while the public clearly understands that these doppelganger gas projects are one and the same, our state politicians seem to believe they can pander to their constituents with mixed messages.
Recently, Rep. Chris Gibson proclaimed his opposition to NED, saying, “They are asking us to take on all the risks (while we) get no benefits.” Yet he supports the Constitution pipeline, claiming it will supply gas to the Amphenol plant in Sidney. The truth is, that agreement evaporated months ago, and it never represented more than a tiny fraction of the gas in the pipeline anyway. As with NED, most of Constitution’s gas — a whopping billion cubic feet per day — would be exported to foreign countries, a get-rich-quick scheme concocted by an industry determined to deplete U.S. reserves as fast as possible and jack up domestic prices in the process. As for risk, Gibson needs to research the abysmal safety records and long list of violations incurred by Williams Partners, the primary owner, builder and operator, and Cabot, which is also participating in the venture. Likewise, U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand  recently denounced the location of a compressor station proposed as part of NED, east of Albany, because of its health and environmental impacts. Yet both senators’ silence about compressor stations proposed along the 124-mile “supply” path of the Constitution/NED corridor in Delaware and Schoharie counties is baffling. Pleas for help from their constituents in those communities have fallen on deaf ears.
To her credit, Gillibrand recently co-sponsored the Merkley-Sanders “Keep it in the Ground” bill, showing that she understands the need to end drilling on public lands if our nation is really serious about slowing global climate change. Yet she seems willing to ignore the climate consequences of more fracking on private land, which is guaranteed to occur if either the Constitution or NED pipeline is built.
Of course the biggest mystery of all is what Gov. Andrew Cuomo is thinking. Last December, Cuomo wisely decided to ban high-volume hydraulic fracking in New York. However, every year, we continue to rely on more gas than in the past. If new pipelines are approved, New York will become a primary conduit for the flow of fracked gas to New England and the world. A frack-free state should not promote fracking.
The bottom line is that unless our elected leaders take a real stand against the proliferation of fracked-gas infrastructure, they are condoning the theft of private land for corporate profit. If that happens, the Constitution Pipeline will become the right of way for more pipelines like NED, shackling us to fossil fuels for years to come, and compromising the future of our state and our planet.
If ever there was a time for real leadership from the governor, it is now.
Joan Tubridy lives in Delhi, Delaware County

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