Friday, April 27, 2012

Cabot-Williams Constitution Pipeline:
New Developments Missed By Upstate Media

Again, the Cabot-Williams "Constitution Pipeline" — a proposed 30-inch, 121-mile, PA-NY natural gas line — was first put out by press release, and a very generalized map, on Feb. 21, 2012. 

I have previously described this as an "interconnect" — designed, at least in part, to shift natgas from one or more over-capacity mainlines in PA, to two or three mainlines running through NY.  But recent details — including this map, especially at the southern end, where it looks as though it's intended solely to collect from the Marcellus shale gas fields of NE PA — call into question that description.

Anyway, here's what's new lately:

1) As noted, as of April 5 or so, there's this newer, better map available — but, as always, still somewhat generalized, and still subject to change.  (Click above into a new window to see it all clearly.)

2) As of April 24 or so, generally pro-development landowners with the CNY Landowners Coalition have been reporting survey crews on the ground in the Town of Afton, Chenango County, NY — presumably in connection with this project.  Leaders from this and other coalitions have also vowed to help open-minded landowners along the general route get organized as a protective negotiating block — first for the purpose of information-sharing, but also for simply raising the knowledge level out there.  No dates or places have been set yet, to my knowledge, but this would definitely be worth keeping an eye out for.

3) As of April 23, at least some landowners on the preliminary route reported having received in that day's mail survey-request letters.  That's according to Windsor farmer Jim Worden, whom I believe plays a role with lease coalitions local to him, as well as with the Joint Landowners group, which is Upstate's "coalition of coalitions."  Worden also had a hand in helping landowners negotiate workable agreements with a shorter PA-NY pipeline billed early on under the name Laser Northeast Gathering, and afterwards purchased by lead Constitution developer Williams.

4) On April 24, the developers put out a press release indicating they've got contracts in hand to move all the initially announced capacity of 650,000 dekatherms per day (more than three-quarters of it committed, unsurprisingly, by 25% joint venturer Cabot).  To me, this indicates that market forces are unlikely to be an impediment to this development.

5) On April 16, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) accepted the developer's request to initiate a process known as pre-filing review, which appears aimed at early, planning-stage consideration of public feedback and environmental issues.  Looks like the developer is hoping for formal application January 2013, final FERC approval November 2013, and to be in service by March 2015, all of which could prove optimistic.  If you'd like to keep closer tabs on this and successive proceedings — which will inevitably become a blizzard of technical paperwork — bookmark FERC's e-Library and regularly search for "Constitution Pipeline," or Docket Number PF12-9-000.  (I don't know if they'll give a new number to the ultimate application.)

6) Also, here's a link to the developer's carefully worded, preliminary pitch to landowners, and state and local officials, on this thing, which I believe also dates from around April 5.

And what have mainstream media in Upstate NY and NE PA done with any of this?

Nothing but crickets, as of this writing.

Until the inevitable opposition gets organized — which is an unfortunate, but widely understood, media narrative in this part of the world — I believe coverage of this development will likely remain minimal or non-existent.  For some reason, just like the shale gas story, the economic side requires a constant stream of press releases — not all of it as complete, frank, or reliable as one might wish — and sometimes not even these get any notice.

I've come to believe that this might be one of the leading cultural reasons why New York State, and Upstate in particular, have devolved into such dysfunctional backwaters.  Our media and political systems have become over-porous for conflict, and for misinformation generated by professional activists, but coagulated against the flow of actual fact-gathering, and honest, unspun assessments.  Our servants in the purported public interest lack the resources, or the mindset, or both — and I guess it's up to additional, interested members of the public, such as myself, to try filling in some gaps, as free time allows.

Reading some of this new stuff closely, I see that using the Interstate Route 88 corridor — a half-cocked, pet suggestion of mine — supposedly remains an option for part of the route, though the developer is quick to say "not directly adjacent."  That sounds to me like they might be taking a very wide-angled view of what would constitute "co-location" with that corridor.  Anyway, we'll have to see.

Though my info is now dated, for background on this, I have three prior posts:

The initial Cabot-Williams announcement.

The prior, competing El Paso-Tennessee Gas Pipeline "Northeast Exchange" plan, which may or may not be shelved already.

An informal open letter to Governor Cuomo, suggesting that this could be another "Energy Superhighway" for his administration.

A question I wish media would ask:  The southernmost 30 or 40 miles of the Cabot-Williams deal are very similar to the older, shorter, and smaller Bluestone Pipeline, which still exists only on paper, and in the hands of a different developer.  Is it too late to hope for lower impact through either market-driven, or governmentally imposed, consolidation?

Also, does this project have any potential sync with an effort by Penn Virginia Resource Partnersrecent purchaser for $1.0 billion of Chief Gathering LLC — to develop an easement option won from the Rail-Trail Council of Northeastern PA?  The seeming green group holds fee rights to an old, 28.8-mile-long D&H corridor snaking through eastern Susquehanna County, PA, at least as far as the NYS line.

Total "Constitution Pipeline" price tag, minus any "multiplier"?  I found an early answer on this:  Capital expenditure was guesstimated to be "between $700 million and $800 million at this point," during an April 26 Q&A between analysts and Williams Partners CEO Alan S. Armstrong.

Total employment impact, preferably in job-years?  (TGP's version was 7,165, just in NY.)

Total local property taxes anticipated?  (TGP's version was $15 million per year.)

And how much do they propose to pay landowners, per foot?

The list goes on...

1 comment:

pCBB said...

For those living along the route, here are two upcoming events to look out for:
* May -- mailing of the first issue of a newsletter Pipeline Updates
* July/August -- five informational meeting to be advertised in local papers