Opponents and proponents of the Constitution Pipeline squared off for what was likely the last time at SUNY Cobleskill Wednesday.
More than 50 people spoke at the Department of Environmental Conservation hearing in the standing-room-only Bouck Auditorium.
Though the 124-mile long Constitution Pipeline has already been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, DEC must rule on water permits for the pipeline as well as on air permits for upgrades to the related Iroquois Wright compressor station.
Speakers divided along expected lines with members of Laborers' Local #157 arguing the projects would bring badly needed jobs and activists voicing concerns over their environmental impacts.
Though at times, they weren't as far apart as they thought.
"Many of our members live in Schoharie County. They hunt and fish. They don't want it ruined," said Pete Stearns, Laborers' Local #157 business manager.
"But these things are done with minimal impact. We need energy so when it's 15 below, I can flip a switch [for heat]."
Josh Shaul said he's one of 175 members of Local #157 who live in Schoharie County who believe Constitution is committed to having the least adverse impact possible on the environment and things like water and air quality.
Mike Walchko of Cobleskill, Schoharie County representative to the Clearwater Chapter of Trout Unlimited, disagreed.
A quarter of the planned project's planned water crossings will impact trout streams, Mr. Walchko said, many of them identified as home to heritage trout.
"If DEC cannot certify that this project will not violate New York's water quality standards-and they cannot-then they cannot issue these permits," Mr. Walchko said.
Glen Sanders of Schoharie spoke both for Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone, who was at another meeting, and himself, arguing that his town's land-use laws prohibit natural gas pipelines.
Meredith Polens, a councilwoman from the Delaware County Town of Meredith, asked that the deadline for comments, already extended to February 27, be extended till April 1.
Ms. Polens and others also asked for adjudicatory hearings, which would be part of a more formal process that would allow witnesses to submit scientific evidence directly related to the environmental issues under consideration.
Adjudicatory hearings would also provide an avenue for addressing issues dismissed by FERC when it issued its final Environmental Impact Statement.
Deborah Krohl of Fulton characterized the companies behind Constitution as "an industry gone out of control," and Robert Curley, also of Fulton, who predicted the natural gas collected locally would be transported to Canada and ultimately, shipped offshore, is unnecessary.
In a written statement, however, Constitution officials maintain that the pipeline is needed "so that northeastern consumers can realize the full benefit of lower-cost energy."
Constitution said it continues to work closely with DEC and has "been very careful and thoughtful in our efforts to minimize disruption to the environment...we have developed a mitigation plan that will ultimately result in a net gain in wetlands and additional habitat for wildlife."