Laying out realities of pipeline
By Dennis Higgins, Commentary
Thursday, August 13, 2015
In his recent op-ed, technology consultant Edward Dodge accuses Yoko Ono of failing to see the value of the Constitution Pipeline and fracked gas.
Dodge claims Ono’s concerns amount to fear-mongering. However, peer-reviewed scientific reports — including studies cited by the state Department of Health in its recommendation to prohibit high-volume fracking — document the negative consequences of shale-gas extraction on air and water resources. Hundreds of cases of water contamination have been confirmed by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, and in Oklahoma the industry is being forced to shut down injection wells responsible for almost two earthquakes a day.
Ono accurately describes the Constitution Pipeline as a 124-mile-long wound that can never heal. The project would bulldoze and blast through pristine forests of the northern Catskills, trench through 250-plus streams and wetlands, and wipe out nearly a million trees.
Further, the oil and gas industry has a terrible record of pipeline accidents, and evidence is mounting that people are getting sick from pipeline infrastructure.
Finally, as documented by Drs. Robert Howarth and Tony Ingraffea of Cornell, when methane leakage is taken into account, fracked gas is no better than coal in tackling climate change.
Yet Dodge takes comfort in thinking that the Constitution Pipeline might create temporary construction jobs. The fact is that most trained workers would come from out-of-state, and New York could generate far more long-term jobs in renewable energy.
But New York’s environment is not the only victim. So are people in the pipeline’s path. The U.S. Constitution gives government the right to take private property when necessary for public use, not so giant corporations can get richer. Nonetheless, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission routinely grants eminent domain to pipelines companies, forcing landowners to accept lowball appraisals mandated in a courtroom.
Dodge also claims that exporting gas from Constitution is “complete fiction” since other pipelines would need to be reversed. However the proposed Iroquois South-to-North project would do exactly that. The CEO of Cabot Oil & Gas (co-owner of the Constitution project) recently told shareholders that to balance his production/price-equation, gas from the pipeline must go to Canada. If that happens, New Yorkers will pay more for gas.
Amazingly, Dodge adds that no liquefied natural gas export terminals are proposed in the Northeast. Obviously he has not heard of the Downeast or Goldsboro LNG terminals proposed in Maine and Nova Scotia.
Dodge wants us to believe that a beautiful marriage exists between fracked gas and renewables. Current trends certainly don’t support that. As more gas-fired power plants are built, they increasingly assume the role of baseload generators. In its analysis of high-volume fracking, the state Department of Environmental Conservation even admits that natural gas can “undermine the deployment of various types of renewable energy … suppressing investment in and use of these clean energy technologies.”
While Dodge paints a pretty picture, it’s not fact-based. The scary news for New Yorkers facing a future of high-pressure pipelines, toxic compressor stations and polluting power plants is that many of our elected leaders are ready to let the gas industry run roughshod over our state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Acting DEC Commissioner Marc Gerstman need to wake up to the reality that once these pipelines are in the ground, our future is fracked. We must chart a better course that starts with saying no to the Constitution Pipeline.
Dennis Higgins is a member of Concerned Citizens of Otego. Also contributing were Colleen McKinney of Stop the Pipeline; Keith Schue of Sustainable Otsego; and Joan Tubridy of Citizens Energy and Economic Council of Delaware County.