Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Millennium Pipeline Trims North-South Plan
Now Thinks It'll Just Stop in Cortland

   Proposed Millennium Phase 1 Pipeline: North-South Pipeline Connector by Andy Leahy

This south-to-north natural gas pipeline interconnect
into the Syracuse area was a trial balloon originally floated May 9, 2013 by the private sector consortium known as Millennium, which includes National Grid. 

The pipeline people went through a process, peculiar to the industry, of polling natural gas shippers to see if they might have enough future product to warrant building it.  But, it turns out, there's not enough market interest right now to justify building all of it.

Though both the old and now-modified proposals have always offered the hope of more private sector expenditure, utility infrastructure, and tax base, mainstream media in upstate New York didn't take much immediate notice of the original announcement.  Instead, part-time electronic shale gas news specialists, such as NY Shale Gas Now and Marcellus Drilling News broadcast the news, virtually right from Day One.

Mainstream reporters did their part by simply waiting for the opposition to form, which it inevitably did.  Then, in their judgment, it was news.  For some reason, that's how we do things in New York.

Over the last six months, Millennium has said nothing further publicly, but now we have an update this morning, Dec. 18, from Tim Knauss of the Syracuse Post-Standard, who must have actually picked up the phone and convinced a spokesman to say something:  The original idea has at some unknown point in time been reduced in length, and now Millennium's thinking of just stopping in Cortland (though even that possibility is still "under review").

In the intervening six months, the most interesting thing about this tentative proposal — at least to me — is how much time, expense, and effort NIMBY and anti-shale gas activists have put into shooting it down, before it's even really underway. 

Since there's still a possible plan afoot to put in a natural gas pipeline between at least the Millennium's main west-east line in the Southern Tier, and the southwest-northeast Dominion linkage accessible near "downtown" Blodgett's Mills, south of Cortland, I expect the anti-development effort will undoubtedly go on.  But it's likely that the key part of the opposition's Sixties demographic base living in southern Onondaga County or northern Cortland County will now be somewhat less energized, and some will move on to worry about something else.  To keep the protest alive, organizers are going to have to try and get a reaction out of people in somewhat less anti-everything rural Broome County and southern Cortland County, areas that I'm pretty familiar with, as a native of Whitney Point in northern Broome. 

(To that, I say — "Show me the tax roll!"  Or, "Where do I sign to get off fuel oil?"  Or, "What are they paying per foot?"  Or, "
How soon are they hiring?")

But let's just take a quick look at all that opponents have already done, in just six months, in opposition to something that no one could really be sure would even move forward:

The opposition named itself Stop the I-81 Pipeline and put up a Wordpress blog.

And also a Facebook page.

They had lots of local "educational" meetings, and got their fight onto the Syracuse cable TV news.

Also, Binghamton AM radio.

Of course, they got glowing, heartfelt "our people" coverage on public radio's America's Natural Gas Alliance-sponsored "Innovation Trail" (which tends to run a lot of spin in opposition to certain innovations), sometimes out of Syracuse, and sometimes out of Binghamton — once, twice, three times, maybe more.

They put up at least one You Tube video.

And they got themselves inserted into numerous, pre-existing, anti-frack web sites, such as GDACC, Shaleshock, Marcellus Protest, Bill Huston, and many others.  (Sorry, but I can't bring myself to link to all that shit.)

Does this seem to anyone like overkill, or what?

Of course, Millennium is saying that none of this early-bird protest factored into its decision to shorten the plan, while Syracuse-area activists are tweeting congratulations of the latest news as a major victory.  Whether it really mattered or not is hard to say, but — judging from the similar, FERC-proposed Constitution Pipeline, which also faces full-time opposition, but is still on track — I doubt it mattered much, compared to the economics.

To me, though, all this bodes unwell for anything ranking as traditional "progress" in upstate New York.  No one organizes to support projects (or to find ways to maximize the public benefit, or to minimize the impacts).  Instead, plenty of folks are ready to invest much of their free time into railing against them, even if they just wind up wounding their neighbors by doing so.  Media outlets don't cover the proposals; they just cover the conflicts.

You add all that grief to the long-complained-of tax and regulatory climate, and it's really no wonder.  Really, they should just put up signs along the highway entry points of fuel-oil-burning towns like Castle Creek, Whitney Point, Lisle, Killawog, or Marathon...

Population:  Fewer and Fewer Every Day

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