Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cabot-Williams PA-NY Pipeline Inter-Connect: Two Proposals, Same Job, Media Confusion

[Original post February 22, 2012. Bullet at top (•) marks update Februrary 23, 2012.]
•  As forecast below — and if reports flowing Feb. 23 from in-the-loop landowners are reliable, which I think they are — El Paso-TGP's pipeline plan has been put on indefinite hold in the wake of the Cabot-Williams announcement.  This leaves hopeful Upstate landowners, and skittish others, to await presentations from Cabot-Williams, which — contrary to media reports — have not yet actually been made.  TGP's details are still relevant mainly to the extent that they generally frame this sort of project's economic impact, infrastructural need, and approximate routing.

The announcement yesterday that Cabot Oil and Gas had joined with Williams Partners on a 25-75 joint venture to connect the burgeoning Marcellus Shale Gas Fields of NEPA with high-demand East Coast markets — by a pipeline interconnect running deep into NY's Leatherstocking Region — is already generating significant confusion among Upstate media, town officials, and landowners.

First of all, Cabot-Williams' "Constitution Pipeline" is the second similar-sounding proposal to breech the surface of media coverage over the last two days.  The firstoriginally publicized by landowner-oriented computer forums, and this blog — was put forth without a press release by El Paso subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline, and is labeled on that company's maps as "Northeast Exchange." 

Both lines have roughly the same beginning and end points, and both must traverse generally the same rural terrain from PA's Northern Tier, through NY's Southern Tier, and on into NY's Leatherstocking Region.  But they're not one and the same proposal, and they're not being proposed by one and the same developer.

In fact, Cabot-Williams officials have reported their agents have not yet been on the ground, talking to town officials or landowners.  According to landowners, TGP agents have been on the ground, since mid-February. 

There is a fierce private-sector competition going on here — and I do admit that that can make things complicated, and ripe for controversy.

But look at the errors already:  Albany public radio station WAMC today is broadcasting a seven-and-a-half-minute-long interview with Schoharie Town Supervisor Gene Milone — embedded on their web page alongside wire service copy on the Cabot-Williams announcement — in which the audibly riled local official recounts his so-far-disconcerting dealings... with TGP.

Both WAMC and Milone appear to have missed the fact that TGP is not Cabot-Williams, and vice versa, and that whatever routing maps TGP has displayed in-person so far are unlikely to align with whatever the other developer puts together.

[I noticed as of Feb. 24 that WAMC's text was corrected, but without acknowledging any error.]

Similarly, Steve Reilly of the Binghamton Press ran the Cabot-Williams announcement as though it represented a second pipeline destined to criss-cross the Valley of Opportunity, joining several additional on-paper or underway projects which are intended to run north only as far as the Southern Tier's Millennium Pipeline.

I conclude, however, that the Cabot-Williams thing represents a second proposal for fulfilling the same single infrastructural need.

Not yet comprehended is that, in the end, there's only going to be one of these pipelines built (unless all the economic plusses of construction must again be snuffed out by the fates of the market, or by anti-development activism, the latter of which New York State is already over-supplied).  Under the American system of both intrastate and interstate energy transmission, capitalists are forcibly restrained by the "public interest" from building whatever they cotton to — whether pipeline or powerline.  In either PA-NY interconnect case, which will be an interstate case, publicly employed specialists at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will be fully empowered through a mind-numbingly involved process to make the ultimate decisions regarding "public need," and other issues, before construction.

Just that part is likely to take nearly two years.

Upstate media people — rather than immediately seeking to rally the forces of NIMBYism, as is their reflexive habit — should instead be reporting all the facts, getting them straight, and asking such fundamental questions as whether TGP's plan will soon have to be quietly withdrawn as dead in the water, given that leading NEPA natural gas producer $COG is on board with the other plan.

Though either pipeline would be likely to go somewhere through Schoharie Township — because that place is pretty close to the intended interconnects with the already-built TGP 200 west-east line, and the already-built Iroquois Gas Transmission northwest-southeast line — the situation is way too premature to be making panicky phone calls to landowners regarding parcel-specific crossings, as the Schoharie town super has already done.


pCBB said...

This looks like a virtual pipeline that exists only in the Cabot and Williams' press release. Possibly this is their attempt to game the FERC regulatory process. As you said, FERC is unlikely to permit both projects, so C&W may be attempting to get FERC to force El Paso to accept C&W as partners -- after EL Paso has done all the homework.

baf said...

Shale gas production has nothing to do with "bringing a soldier home" or energy independence. If New York State is foolish enough to put our drinking water and public health at risk, the shale gas we produce will feed a growing export market. American shale gas leases and shale gas reserves have already been sold to Britain, France, Canada, Norway, Japan, India and China. Plans are afoot to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from New York State to Canada, and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Oregon is being converted from an import facility to an export facility. A LNG terminal in Maryland is expected to undergo a similar conversion, and two new export terminals, one in Texas and another in Louisiana, are slated to be completed by 2015.
Also, bear in mind that some of the countries that now own American shale gas leases have either suspended or banned shale gas extraction at home because fracking is considered too dangerous.
Given all this, it may not be a stretch to say that certain regions of New York State are poised to become energy extraction zones that will be sacrificed to meet the energy needs of foreign countries that are unwilling to jeopardize domestic public health or their own environments.

Andy Leahy said...

baf, a couple points upon which you seem to be willfully misled:

Foreign investment in North American shale plays is an exercise in making money and advancing know-how -- not in exporting natgas. If foreign interests wanted to pay the significant markup to pressure-freeze some product for export, they could do that directly -- once additional plants are built, which is already underway.

If you got a problem with fossil fuels export, take it up with Congress. I remain undecided on this question.

Drilling an indigenous gas well will, in fact, help bring current and future soldiers home (and give them jobs) -- once the oil-based North American transportation fleet is much further converted to NGV/LNG/CNG, which is already underway.

If you got a problem with that, take it up with urban transit or UPS.

We can argue what *should* be done all you like. But we still have a partially free market here in the U.S. And, within its wiggle room, that market is already in the process of driving these changes.

Natgas consumers in NY and New England -- the primary end beneficiaries of this PA-NY pipeline interconnect, not Canadians, or other foreigners -- are a key part of driving that market.

You got a problem with that, get ahold of a third-party power producer, pay extra for all-renewables electricity, and convert your house to that.

I won't even say so much as "boo" to stop you. In fact, I will salute you for being one of the very few environmentally minded people who actually puts *their* money where *their* mouth is. And for leaving the rest of us alone -- and free -- to live our reasonably, rationally, regulated lives.

(As for me, I'd rather burn firewood -- but I suppose you'll have a problem with that too!)

DDavis said...

I found an article online that summarizes the proposal of the $1 Billion dollar pipeline that will go through several states. If you are interested in reading it. Here is the link.