Thursday, April 19, 2012

NYS PSC Accepts Bluestone Pipeline's $400K

[Original post April 6, 2012, but updated to accommodate subsequent events.]

Nearly a full year later — but two short weeks after the developer got down on bended knee with a $400,000 settlement offer — it's a done deal:  Bluestone Pipeline's Tree-Cutting Caper in the Town of Sanford, Broome County, NY, has come to a close, according to an April 19, 2012, order posted on the NYS Public Service Commission's server:

NYS PSC Accepts Bluestone Pipeline $400K Settlement 4-19-2012

To recap, this remarkable administrative sideshow involved tree-cutting on the New York portion of the proposed Bluestone pipeline route.  This was done by landowners, on their own land, and reportedly on their own initiative, in hopes of making a few extra bucks on timber or firewood deals, independent of the pipeline developer.  This occurred long before state officials had a chance to approve, deny, or modify the project, and it's unquestionably illegal for the pipeline developer to engage in that sort of advance work.  The landowners, on the other hand, always stood outside the reach of the PSC's dragnet, and a lawyer for at least one of them has described the state's investigation as "frivilous."

Anyway, it looked to me as though the PSC spent the better part of the last year, quietly fingering an investigative noose, and hoping something good might come of it.  They may have privately justified their administrative slowness on the theory that the State of New York could tolerate no loopholes, whether occurring by happenstance or unproven suggestion.

If you're anti-development, you'll probably be upset that This Thing with the Trees is not enough to stop the project, but you'll see the result as some kind of Sweet Justice

If you're pro-development, you might pity the out-of-state fool, and call it what it really is: An Empire State Shakedown.  To me, it sounds a little bit like being stuck in Algeria with an expired passport, and dealing with foreign customs officials who dither for months, seemingly lost in hazy indecisiveness.

Man, that is some pretty expensive timber!

Anyway, there are winners on this: 

— The Town of Sanford Food Bank (30% of the settlement).

— Environmental science students at Broome Community College (the other 70%).

— A few local governments and school districts in NY (not sure about PA), eager to enter even just their limited share of this 37-mile pipeline into the Almighty Property Tax System (while there are still no also-taxable shale gas wells permissible in NY).

— New York and Pennsylvania landowners, who stand to get paid, directly or indirectly, several different ways on this thing.

— Downstaters who are quietly enjoying themselves, downstream of all this Marcellus shale gas, (currently) available at Fire Sale Prices.

— The employed and unemployed of New York and Pennsylvania, most of whom want to go to work already (there's supposedly $250 million in unsubsidized private sector dollars, ready to be spent on everything from timber crews to weld X-ray technicians).

In fact, the unreported list of homegrown entities and officials which have so far gone on record with the PSC in support of this project reads like this:

— Labor unions:  Upstate NY Laborers' District Council (Syracuse); International Union of Operating Engineers, Upstate New York Operating Engineers, Local 158 (Glenmont, NY); and Laborers International Union of North America, Local 785 (Ithaca!).

— Landowner coalitions:  Broome-Delaware Coalition, and Deposit Gas Group

— Pro-business organizations:  Deposit Chamber of Commerce, Deposit Events Committee, and the Progress Authority (Towanda, PA).

— Local government:  Town of Sanford Town Board, and Debra A. Preston, Broome County Executive.

— State government:  NYS Assemblyman Clifford W. Crouch.

The losers on this: 

— Developer DTE Energy out of Michigan, which, as I said, basically innocently (but carelessly) strolled right into this whole mess.

— Opponents of drilling, and of indigenous fossil fuels generally, who are reluctant to let Upstaters see firsthand any further economic development spinoff from the Shale Gas Revolution, already well underway in PA.

— Reporters at the Binghamton Press, who will eventually be forced to hunt around for a new angle to fret over, in opposition to any local economic development they can't squeeze into one of their few acceptable narratives.

(And, yes, this is how these young, underpaid journalists behave — despite the fact that the area they purport to serve ranked in the last census as the biggest population loser statewide, by straight body count.)

For further background, I've written about Bluestone several times before.  For instance:  Deep inside a long criticism of the Binghamton paper, and a single photo that speaks a thousand words about the blinding PA-NY situational contrast.

1 comment:

virtuallyme said...

" Opponents of drilling, and of indigenous fossil fuels generally, who are reluctant to let Upstaters see firsthand any further economic development spinoff from the Shale Gas Revolution, well underway in PA:"