The Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project has altered the debate on the efforts by the natural gas industry to run underground transmission systems through upstate, according to several local officials.
Some elected officials who voiced positive comments or adopted neutral stances on the Constitution Pipeline project, whose construction could begin as early as this year, have been increasingly critical of both the NED project and federal regulators.
“This is a different animal from the first one,” Davenport Town Supervisor Dennis Valente said, who was neutral on the Constitution Pipeline when it was proposed three years ago but noted he is now wary of the consequences of having the NED project follow a similar path through the region.
He and other critics of the NED project being advanced by energy giant Kinder Morgan contend that if the $4 billion project goes forward, it would leave towns such as Davenport, Franklin, Sidney and Schoharie with a “utility corridor” that will make the region less inviting and won’t spark any appreciable long-term job growth.
“Without a doubt, a very high percentage of people who were willing to accept the Constitution Pipeline totally reject the second proposal because it’s compounding,” said Valente, whose town have be traversed by 15 miles of each of the separately proposed pipelines. “It changes the whole nature of the event. It’s not just a pipeline. We would become a pipeline corridor with ever-expanding potential.”
Kinder Morgan has sponsored a series of “open houses” this month in school auditoriums and community rooms in New York and Pennsylvania to allow landowners to view maps of the proposed route and explain how the pipeline would be installed. The project is expected to include a 30,000 horsepower compressor station in the Franklin area, though the exact site has not been determined, Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley said Tuesday.
Asked about the reception that the NED project has been getting at the open houses, Wheatley said, “I will let you do your own research on that.”
He added: “We continue to make the case for the project, and try to educate all stakeholders, including the elected officials, the landowners involved and others, about the need for the project in the Northeast and New England.”
One energy industry source who asked not to be identified said the Constitution and NED projects have taken different approaches. The former project, for instance, is generously sprinkling out more than $1.6 million in grants to fire departments, nonprofits and community groups, while the NED project has yet to provide such benefits.