Friday, November 2, 2012

Constitution Raises Stakes in Poker Game with Pipeline NIMBY's: Natural Gas, Anyone?

Copied and pasted below, this announcement came out this morning — a local, consumer-level, natural gas supply framework between the developer of the interstate Constitution Pipeline, and Leatherstocking Gas, a new, Binghamton, NY-based partnership between a traditional upstate utility, and a company known largely for delivering fuel oil and propane by truck.

What this does is it ups the ante for localized benefits to rural NY and PA communities that have been targeted as ground zero (negative spin), or chosen as hosts (positive spin), for this proposed, 120-mile, 30-inch interstate natural gas pipeline.  The Constitution project was originally pushed into public view by the actions of a competitor in April February 2012, and it has of course already devolved into the realm of New York's all-too-familiar, fracking-enhanced Enviro-NIMBY Versus Economic Growth debate.

Politically, today's announcement works like this:  It takes the legs out from under opponents by challenging their fundamental hypocrisy — on grounds of both ideology and economic self-interest.  After all, lots of folks — who prefer to consider themselves well-informed, well-meaning, and righteous — are already caught in the trap of railing against fossil fuels, while they at the same time directly or indirectly burn the stuff daily.  This announcement invites many thousands more New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians to ultimately jump into the Pool of the Pragmatically Conflicted.  What side would you be on in this pipeline battle, if you foresaw the potential for this kind of fuel choice in your small town?

It brings the question much closer to the doorsteps and basements of rural homes, schools, businesses, and other institutions.

It asks this:  Whatever New York State ultimately decides to do — drill-wise and frack-wise — would you rather burn this stuff, partly mostly fracked out of Pennsylvania and elsewhere — or keep on keeping on with your trucked-in fuel oil (partly fracked and partly OPEC), propane (partly fracked), or electric (based on sources largely partly fracked, partly nuclear, and partly coal)? 

Even if you've already invested in private setups to capture energy from firewood, solar, wind, or geothermal (good for you, in my book, by the way, and I really mean that), would you like to have methane by metered pipe as a backup, and as a choice?  (The reflexively frackophobic college town of Hamilton, in Madison County, NY, has already, by village referendum, answered a very similar question in the affirmative.)  Would you rather your community had this kind of choice?  What's really better for your planet?  What's really better for your budget?  Have you run the numbers lately?

I'm going to make a prediction now:  Upstate media outlets, especially the Oneonta and Binghamton newspapers, will go out of their way to ignore this Leatherstocking development, or to find a way to under-cover it, or to re-spin it entirely.  Some news is just too psychologically painful to report straight-forwardly, honestly, and independently — and both organs have already lost all reliability and credibility on these scores.  Reporters and editors are at least partly human; it happens.

But, here, I'll make it easy for these guys, and find that alternate angle for a slick re-spin:  Though nifty Cooperstown's own Otsego County is on the Constitution developer's alternate routing for this pipeline, that area is not on Leatherstocking's list of future supply areas!  Nor is the pipeline's interconnect endpoint of Schoharie County!  What's that about?  Is that an oversight, or extortion, or what?  That ought to piss somebody off, which is all that local news consists of, these days, anymore.  Mad about the pipeline — and, at the same time, mad about getting screwed out of local supply — sure, it makes no logical sense.  But it is good copy.

(Should there be any free-thinking journalists left in Upstate, in the alternative, I see that there is, between the lines, a story inside the story here:  Even if the Constitution Pipeline ultimately dies another politically charged death at the hands of the ever-hostile New York mob, Leatherstocking claims to already have Summer 2013 construction plans for serving a number of unnamed, previously un-served, communities.  I wonder what areas are on that list.  If I was paying fuel oil bills in Great Bend or Hallstead, PA, or Windsor or Bainbridge or Sidney, NY, that would sure seem like news to me.)
Nov. 2, 2012

Constitution Pipeline Agrees to Work with Local Gas Provider

Rural communities in PA, NY could have access to natural gas in the future

Constitution Pipeline Company and Leatherstocking Gas Company, LLC have signed an agreement to work in good faith to pursue agreements for the design, construction and operation of delivery interconnects along Constitution’s proposed pipeline route.

If constructed, the Constitution Pipeline would be classified as an “open access pipeline,” meaning that local municipalities or public utilities like Leatherstocking Gas Company, LLC could potentially tap the line in the future to provide residential, commercial and industrial natural gas service.

“Leatherstocking’s plan is to provide lower cost, clean burning, abundant, domestic natural gas to rural communities,” said Leatherstocking CEO, Mike German. “Tapping into the Constitution Pipeline would help us achieve that goal.”

Leatherstocking’s vision is the development of natural gas local distribution systems within Broome, Chenango, Delaware, and Madison Counties in New York State and Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania in locations currently without natural gas service.  The company plans to begin constructing portions of its natural gas distribution networks not dependent upon Constitution Pipeline in the summer of 2013.

Constitution Pipeline Project Manager Matt Swift says the possibility that local communities, who currently don’t have access to natural gas, might be able to take advantage of the resource is very exciting.

“We believe working with Leatherstocking is a great opportunity for the Constitution Pipeline to potentially facilitate a direct, tangible benefit for communities along the pipeline route,” added Swift.

Leatherstocking believes providing one of the area’s most abundant natural resources to the people living in the region makes good business and environmental sense.

“Our goal is to provide a lower cost, cleaner burning energy source to the people of the region than what they currently utilize,” said Leatherstocking Secretary, Lindsay Meehan.  “That is very exciting.”


Anonymous said...

All well and good. except Cabot and Williams do not have the same plan as Leatherstocking. The gas from Pa is NOT staying there. The gas from NY (future)is not staying there and the people who are having their land STOLEN from them will not ever get gas to their homes. IT IS A LIE. If they or Leatherstocking want the land they should buy it--not steal it.

Andy Leahy said...


We have another case here where ordinary facts skip right over the heads of fossil fuels opponents, like stones atop a murky pond.

For one, Leatherstocking's deal is about consumer-level natgas supply to the very same localities directly affected by the Constitution Pipeline -- sourced out of the flow of that pipeline, when it's built.

So that's where *some* of the natural gas will go. Knowing a little bit about Great Bend, Hallstead, Windsor, Sidney, and other rusticated points along the way, it's true it won't be much by comparison to metro Northeast U.S. But that's not an meaningful argument for those locals who just paid through the nose again to fill their fuel oil tanks and currently have no other workable options.

For two, the pipeline developer is taking easements, not full ownership. All takings are compensated, some on voluntary deals, some on eminent domain-influenced deals, and some on eminent domain-forced deals.

This is how we move stuff around in the U.S. If you want to protest that system, I suggest you get off the highways, and cease using anything that's ever been moved to you by pipe, rail, or power line.

pCBB said...

Something is missing from this announcement. Constitution would only control transporting the gas. There is nothing about an agreement by one of the owners of the gas (currently Cabot or Southwest Energy) to sell their gas to Leatherstocking. Without a seller, Leatherstocking has nothing.

Also the Constitution was announced in February 2012, your blog posting was in April 2012.

Andy Leahy said...

Hey, welcome back, man! Good points, and thanks for providing all of us with such spot-on info in the past.

Since Cabot is a 25% joint venturer in Constitution, I wonder if that part might not be a problem.