An environmental law firm founded by Robert Kennedy Jr. has joined the fight against Constitution Pipeline's plans for a 120-mile natural gas pipeline through the region.
Stop The Pipeline, a multi-county grassroots group with just one goal-stopping the pipeline--has retained the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic.
STP's Steering Committee members spoke to the importance of that affiliation at their first Schoharie County meeting, Thursday in Richmondville.
About 75 people turned out to learn about submitting comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the October 24 FERC hearing in Oneonta, and how to keep Constitution surveyors off their land.
Members of the Steering Committee include Bob Nied of Richmondville and the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities.
Mr. Nied will act as STP's liaison with the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, working with legal intern Anne Marie Garti of Delhi, who brought the two together.
The law clinic has already filed comments with FERC on STP's behalf, questioning, in part, whether there is a real need for gas in the Northeast market and arguing that FERC can't allow Constitution to use eminent domain-a move many affected landowners' fear-knowing that gas will be exported.
The law clinic is representing STP, not individual landowners; the fact that they could end up in court battling Constitution on their own worried some in the audience.
"There is some value in having a heavy-hitter as your legal team," Mr. Nied responded. "But we are hoping it won't get to that point [lawsuits]."
Also Thursday, landowners asked what they can do to keep surveyors working for Constitution off their land--or what to do if they found them there without their permission.
Document it, said Steering Committee member Mark Pezzati of Andes.
"Get a point and shoot camera, take photos, write down their license plate number, and if you have to, call the cops," Mr. Pezzati said.
"No one has permission to be on your land without your permission," Mr. Nied added.
Mr. Pezzati said there had been some talk of setting up a phone tree that landowners could turn to for help in getting rid of trespassing surveyors.
He advised landowners against moving the blue tape surveyors are using to mark possible routes if they come upon it, instead telling them again to document it-advice not everyone bought into.
There was also the obvious suggestion of posting land.
Speakers spoke of friends who've been intimidated by surveyors-or conversely, told by surveyors that letting them on their land could provide the kind of "evidence" needed to stop the pipeline.
Mr. Pezzati, however, said many of the surveyors are locals, hired by Constitution, and will politely leave if asked.
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Comments on Constitution's proposal can be submitted to FERC until November 9.
Comments can be filed online using FERC's "quick comment" feature at www.FERC.org under the link "Documents and Filings," also by using the "eFiling" feature, also located at the "Documents and Filings" link.
To use the second link, you must open a FERC account by clicking on the agency's "Register" link.
Reference docket number PF12-9-000.
Comments may also be mailed directly to FERC: Kimberly Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426.
FERC will also hold a mwwting Oneonta tonight, Wednesday, 7-10pm, at the Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Atrium, 24 Market Street.