The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given its okay to the Constitution Pipeline.
FERC issued a certificate for public convenience and necessity for the 124-mile pipeline last Tuesday-the same day it approved the expansion of the compressor station in the Town of Wright, which will be used to transport the gas.
Constitution could begin construction of the $683 million pipeline by spring with completion slated for next winter.
The pipeline still needs the regulatory go-ahead from the state DEC, which must approve the necessary water permits-something even opponents see as likely.
Meanwhile, Stop the Pipeline is challenging letters sent to landowners who haven't yet granted Constitution access, Fed Ex'ed the day after the FERC ruling, demanding that they be retracted. (See related story.)
Word of FERC's decision dismayed Bob Nied, spokesman for the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities, who questioned how the federal agency could "reject the hundreds of comments, studies, and concerns submitted by impacted landowners, scientists, and citizens groups.
"...FERC sets the stage for the seizure of private property through eminent domain to accommodate pipeline easements..." he predicted, even as those letters were going out.
If DEC grants the necessary permits, Mr. Nied said, "this could all unfold very, very quickly."
In its ruling, FERC maintains Constitution has proposed steps to minimize the economic impact on landowners by proposing to "locate the pipeline within or parallel to existing rights-of-way where feasible...Constitution has made changes to over 50 percent of the proposed route" and proposed mitigation will reduce the environmental impacts of the pipeline to "less-than-significant levels."
The pipeline will deliver natural gas from northeastern Pennsylvania through Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie Counties to markets in New York and New England.
"We're pleased that FERC has approved construction of this key piece of natural gas infrastructure to the Northeast after a long and comprehensive review of this project," said Chris Stockton, spokesman for Constitution.
"Once in service, the Constitution Pipeline will provide critical access to new, domestic sources of natural gas."
Mr. Nied countered that the pipeline is part of a flawed national energy policy that doesn't take into account its real impacts, especially on rural communities.
"Constitution wants to come right through your living room and for you to think there's nothing you can do about it. [This is a corrected quote.]