Constitution pulls the plug


By Patsy Nicosia

Eight years after Constitution Pipeline announced plans to construct a 125-mile-long pipeline through Schoharie County, Constitution and partner, the Williams Companies, are walking away from the project.
Williams Partners LP, the Oklahoma energy giant heading up the long-controversial project, said Friday it’s ending its pursuit after court battles with New York regulators have delayed the construction since 2016.
“Williams--with support from its partners, Duke, Cabot and AltaGas--has halted investment in the proposed Constitution project,” the Tulsa-based company said in a statement Friday.
“While Constitution did receive positive outcomes in recent court proceedings and permit applications, the underlying risk adjusted return for this greenfield pipeline project has diminished in such a way that further development is no longer supported.”
That’s good news for opponents, many of whom rallied locally against the pipeline, which would have carried fracked gas from North Central Pennsylvania through the Southern Tier and Schoharie County.
“Constitution’s investors just confirmed what we have been saying for the past eight years, that there is no need for this project,” said Anne Marie Garti, a founding member of Stop the Pipeline (STP) and an attorney who represents the group.
“In the end, the companies had to write off hundreds of millions of dollars they had wasted. This exposes the failure of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which approves every pipeline application if it includes paper contracts, even if there is no evidence of the public’s need for the gas.
“Here FERC’s rubber-stamp enabled the taking of private property for a project that will be never constructed.”
The project took a step forward last August when FERC found DEC had erred in rejecting a critical water-quality permit for the pipeline.
But the DEC and Governor Andrew Cuomo vowed to continue to fight the project, in an effort to cut the state’s fossil-fuel emissions.
To that end, also Friday, Governor Cuomo’s office released plans to dramatically speed up the permitting of large-scale solar projects—something that worries those with concerns over the East Point energy Solar Project under review in the Town of Sharon. (See relates stories.)
STP, a grassroots organization formed in 2012, led the fight to stop the project, focusing on water quality impacts, an area where it could exert the most pressure during the complex regulatory review.
After FERC approved the project in late 2014, STP pressed DEC to deny a required water quality certification.
STP filed expert reports and its members delivered more than 5,000 comments to DEC.
It then organized a coalition of regional groups and invited them to participate in two large rallies in Albany.
Its efforts paid off.
In April 2016, DEC denied the pipeline company’s application for a water quality certification.
Ms. Garti said STP now plans to work to restore property taken from its members through eminent domain.