‘Courtesy’ pipeline hearing recessed
ELDRED, NY — An April 4 public hearing on a site plan for Millennium Pipeline’s (MP) new Highland compressor station was recessed following the planning board’s receipt of a review from county planners finding the application incomplete.
Not that it mattered a great deal to MP, since the project has already been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is funded entirely by permitting fees and has never rejected a major energy industry application. A FERC permit overrides all state and local laws, so MP landscape engineer Frank Palumbo said his mission was to collect public comments and questions and research answers he could not provide.
Site plans traditionally are an early planning portion of any project application, but the MP project already has construction and extensive excavation underway, so what might normally have been a well-attended and contested hearing drew only a small audience.
Palumbo said the project essentially involves construction of a 3,000-foot access road with a stream/wetland crossing, a 60-by-100-foot pump station, three smaller support buildings and three storm water retention basins. His map showed six additional large earth disturbance areas along the roadway, which he said were temporary and would be restored to their original conditions.
Neighbor Dave Jones was skeptical about the “temporary” clearing and restoration. “Really? Really? That area is completely cleared. It’s a big area for a compressor station. It’s a big project, and it’s much further along than you’re saying.”
Planning board member Norman Sutherland questioned the reported 100 cubic yards of stone having arrived at the site. “I’d say there was more than 100 yards in the last two weeks.”
Former Supervisor Andrew Boyar said this hearing should have taken place a year ago. “The planning board needs a field trip. They’ve got 27 acres-plus disturbed. It behooves you to know if the applicant has dirty hands.”
He said the site appears to be an illegal “segmented project… This is an enormous project and a lot material for a 100-by-60-foot building. What is phase two and phase three?”
“No emissions?” he said derisively. “I want comprehensive statistics. There are emissions. What’s going downstream toward the school? What kinds of materials are being used? The best, or the cheapest? We want to know the total cost for the assessor… They’re doing it now and hoping you go look and say OK. They’re not waiting for your input,” Boyar said.
John Kamp said the project was an example of “big energy arrogance… FERC is supposed to protect us, not deplete our resources.”
Responding to a question, planning board chair Berry Hafkin said it was true that, with FERC approval, the town had no power to intervene on the project.
“Why are we here now, as a courtesy?” Kamp asked. With Hafkin’s reply of “yes,” Kamp got up and walked out.
Palumbo said he would get answers to audience questions about leak detection, project security, emergency notifications, wildlife impacts, the possible presence of hazardous materials in holding tanks, or possible impacts of filtered tank releases to the Halfway Brook. “We’re honestly taking questions to improve what we’re doing,” Palumbo said.
Hafkin recessed the hearing to the board’s May 2 meeting.