The Constitution Pipeline is back from what many thought was the dead.
Two weeks ago, FERC – the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – issued an order that allows the 125-mile Constitution to proceed without the water-quality permits denied in April 2016 by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The water-quality permits were necessary for the pipeline to cross streambeds between Northeast Pennsylvania and its planned connection with the Iroquois Pipeline, near Cobleskill.
The Stop the Pipeline organization, based in Delaware County, and the state Attorney General’s Office, on DEC’s behalf, are expected to challenge FERC’s decision by Sept. 30, the 30-day deadline for appeals.
The Constitution Pipeline Co. said it is anticipating starting construction in the first quarter of 2015 after FERC today published its final environmental review of the 124-mile-long project.
The FERC action is a key step toward the commission’s decision on the project, which is expected as early as late November, company said, anticipating it may be delivering natural gas downstate and to New England by the 2015-16 heating season.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation today announced it has denied the water-quality permit required for the Constitution Pipeline, blocking the 124-mile-long project for the time being.
“Although DEC has granted certificates for other projects, the application by Constitution for these certificates fails to meet New York State’s water quality standards,” DEC said in a statement. At issue is the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification.
The state was required to reject the certification by the end of April, or jurisdiction would have moved to FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
ONEONTA — The traditional swearing-ins were Wednesday, Jan. 1, in Common Council chambers, but swearing-in with a hand on the Bible was one tradition that may be waning.
When each of the nine candidates approached the podium, City Judge Lucy Bernier asked them if they would like to place their hand on the Bible, or on the U.S. Constitution.
Three of the nine – seven Council members and two county reps – chose the Constitution.
“I figure upholding a political office and upholding the law of the United States, which is the Constitution, relates more to my job politically than the Bible does,” said Jill Basile, sworn in as the city’s District 14 county board representative.“I understand and value the tradition of swearing on the Bible, but I also understand and value that people are different, religions are different, and being able to make a choice is powerful.”
Basile hopes others feel the same. “I think that folks should embrace differences and someone swearing-in on a Constitution shouldn’t affect how people perceive them doing their job as an elected official,” she said.
Council member John Rafter, Seventh Ward, who also swore on the Constitution, insisted “people can use anything to swear on. They don’t have to choose between two. It’s simply a swearing-in, and where my hand is is irrelevant. I can swear on ‘Finnegan’s Wake’” – the James Joyce classic – “if I want, because I believe in it very strongly.”
Sixth Ward Council member Scott Harrington, however, chose the Bible out of habit. “I didn’t give it a thought,” he said. “I think it’s both tradition and my personal belief. Like when I got married. You make the promise. When I make that promise I’m answering to honesty and integrity.”
And there’s family heritage . “When my dad took the oath of office, he got sworn in on the Bible,” he said. “Maybe it’s just my upbringing.”
The most youthful member of the county board, Clark Oliver, made a stand for tradition “mostly out of respect for my family. I was raised Christian and I’m currently a member at the First Presbyterian Church in Oneonta,” he said. “I recognize that there’s a separation of church and state and totally respect my colleagues. It was a personal choice. I think it’s a choice that every official should be able to make,” he said.
But according to Otsego County Judge Brian D. Burns, swearing-in on the Constitution is relatively new.
“I’ve personally never seen anyone swear-in on the Constitution,” he said. “From my experience, that’s new.” In 20 years administering oaths of office in Cooperstown, everyone’s sworn on the Bible.
From a legal standpoint, however, signing a state-required form, not the oath, affirms elected officials’ status. “Each public official has to sign a sworn oath and that’s the action that really counts,” he said.
Historically, at least three presidents did not use the Bible for their oath of office. John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce both used a book of law and Theodore Roosevelt raised his right hand in place of a text.
“There is no issue about putting your hand on the Bible or the Constitution or the
Koran,” said Council member David Rissberger, Third Ward. “When you are sworn into the office you are promising to the people that elected you that you will uphold the constitution and do the best job possible. When you put your hand on something you are saying that this what you believe in. I swore on the Bible, but I would feel just as comfortable swearing on the Constitution.”
And Mayor Gary Herzig echoed this perspective.
“There is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years, but it’s not a requirement,” he said. “We have people serving office of many different religions and some who don’t follow any religion, so for that reason we are not going to tell people that their only option is to put a hand on the Bible.”
FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has issued an order overruling the State of New York’s 2016 decision blocking the Constitution Pipeline. The order will be challenged, but if upheld it would allow pipeline construction from Northeast Pennsylvania to Cobleskill.
Lacking Supply, Gas Supplier Shifts Focus To Pennsylvania
Editor’s Note: This “Spotlight Report” is reprinted from this week’s Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta. Pick up allotsego.com’s sister newspapers weekly for news, features and commentary about the Otsego County regional issues.
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to allotsego.com
The future of Amphenol Aerospace’s 1,000-job Sidney plant if the state rejects the Constitution Pipeline is “a relatively minor blip from the perspective of the people who have opposed the pipeline,” says Bob Nied, Richmondville, formerly on the Stop the Pipeline steering committee.
If approved, Stop the Pipeline adherents believe, the pipeline would damage tourism, preventing job growth in that sector, and depress property values, counter-balancing Amphenol’s economic benefits, Nied said.
But Glenn Nealis, director of the Delaware County Economic Development Department, takes another view. He pointed out that, with its $30 million annual payroll, there is no larger employer than Amphenol in his county or Otsego, and that it is on a par with Raymond Corp., the fork-lift manufacturer in Greene, Chenango County.
Natural gas for Amphenol is “very important,” said Nealis. “They were very clear during the negotiations to keep them here that that was a key consideration, one they estimated would save them $1 million a year.”
It serves as a necessary reminder to some that America is a representative republic based on Constitutional law. This is exampled by the requirement that every elected official must swear an oath to “support” or “protect” the Constitution of the United States before taking the seat that he/she was elected for.
As such, the Otsego County Board of Representatives is by no means an exception. It has even been brought to my attention that some representatives chose to substitute the Bible with the Constitution itself. To these individuals, one would expect an ever-more committed reverence to uphold and support the Constitution to which our American Republic is based.
It should come as no surprise that the Bill of Rights is an intrinsic part of American law. When an oath is violated, it is called perjury.
As I have stated before, our organization, Otsego 2AS, does not stand upon a partisan platform but, rather, a Constitutional one. Either one embraces the Constitution, or one does not. Thus, either the county representatives will embrace their oath, or they will perjure. It is just that simple.
The oath is no trivial matter.
In essence, it is what separates our republic from behaving as an unscrupulous banana republic, where whatever the powerful desire is what is pursued. It is the sworn duty of the elected officeholder to render themselves restrained and accountable to such oath made. In this case, the oath is to support the Constitution. Therefore, transgressing the Constitution clearly violates this oath.
As Chief Justice Marshall stated in Marbury vs. Madison (1803): “A law repugnant to the Constitution is void; and that courts, as well as other departments are bound to that Instrument.”
The 2AS Resolution embraces this ruling as a necessary step to reverse the course of Constitutional infringements. It is with profound satisfaction that Otsego county board does harbor fighters for freedom in standing upon their sworn oath.
In saying this, I cannot see anyone more qualified for state Senate than Peter Oberacker. It is never an understatement to say that doing the right thing is never easy. Likewise, I commend many sitting in our county board who truly desire to uphold their sworn oaths of office.
Yet the 2AS movement would never have been necessary had the New York State government not embarked upon the unconstitutional path of perpetual firearm infringements. It is to this where
fighters for freedom must endeavor to straighten a lost government back to its sworn principles.
I have no doubt that Peter Oberacker will continue this restoration of a current state banana republic back to its Constitutional basis.
By JIM KEVLIN • Hometown Oneonta/The Freeman’s Journal
Edition of Dec. 11-12, 2014
Opponents are still looking for ways to block it, but the Constitution Pipeline Co. is planning to start work on the 124-mile natural-gas conduit by February or March, as soon as a couple of months from now.
Bids on the project will be let soon after Jan. 1, and the construction companies that win the contract will begin seeking to fill 1,300 jobs – primarily welders, heavy-machinery operators and pipe-fitters, said Chris Stockton, Constitution spokesman, in an interview this week.
Work will begin simultaneously at five points along the route, with one base camp in the Oneonta area. The plan is to complete the $700 million project by the end of 2015, he said.
FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) voted Tuesday, Dec. 2, to issue a “certificate of public convenience and necessity,” allowing the Constitution to go forward with plans to link fracked natural gas from northeastern Pennsylvania to Schoharie County, where it would connect with the Iroquois and Tennessee pipelines, serving New York City and Boston respectively.
The certificate was “conditional,” but that is being interpreted in different ways. Stockton said the conditions are to ensure environment precautions are met, which the company intends to do. Opponents of the pipeline see the conditions as precluding action by the Constitution until they are met.
“We still are taking the position that the pipeline has not had the final approval, which is true,” said Robert Nied of the Schoharie County-based Center for Sustainable Rural Communities.
Acting on its interpretation, however, the company immediately mailed out letters to landowners along the route, advising them to accept, by Thursday, Dec. 11, its offers for the easements necessary to build and maintain the pipeline.
“Constitution would like to reach an agreement with you and strongly prefers to avoid litigation,” the letter reads.
“However, if you do not accept this final offer and execute the documents enclosed … we will proceed to initiate suit under the Natural Gas Act.”
Opponents, through the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, have sent a letter asking state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate what they see as an attempt to intimidate landowners who are holding out.
Meanwhile, Stockton said, the company – “on our dime” – has agreed to install “taps” at four point to allow access to the natural gas. One is at Sidney, to serve the new Amphenol plant. But Unadilla, Otego and Delhi also have agreements with the Leatherstocking Gas Co., a Corning affiliate, to receive gas for community use.
A federal Court of Appeals today denied the Constitution Pipeline’s appeal of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s 2016 decision blocking the 121-mile project intended to carry fracked gas from Northeast Pennsylvania, through Delaware County, to connect with the Iroquois Pipeline near Cobleskill.
The case was argued last Nov. 16 before the Second Circuit in New York City, and the decision was handed down today.
As any one of you who have been there know, Owego’s a delightful community, rich with history – Belva Lockwood, the first woman presidential candidate, taught there. Fine mansions line the Susquehanna River. There’s a funky, arts-oriented downtown.
A half-block off Main and Front streets, however, you see the rot. Solid homes are in disarray; when the money’s not there, maintenance is the first thing to go. There was one particularly well-maintained home for sale, but it listed for $125,000. It would have demanded twice that in Otsego County.
Owego was a particular showcase in the day, not so long ago, when every community in Upstate New York was a showcase. Remember delightful Little Falls, fine homes built around a series of park-like squares. Or today’s woeful Amsterdam, which used to be the prosperous center of the nation’s carpet-making industry.
Otsego County’s community centers are challenged, too. Happily, Oneonta’s DRI is taking hold, with the exciting Lofts on Dietz, 66 artist studios and apartments, due for groundbreaking next summer. Cooperstown, destination of a half-million tourists a year, is in particularly good shape, although ghost-town-like for most of the winter.
What better time for yet another promising piece of economic-development news.
So, it’s back! The Constitution Pipeline. At least the possibility that the Constitution Pipeline, designed to carry natural gas from Northeast Pennsylvania to the East Coast, may finally happen, although not immediately.
Remember Alternate M? It was a route for the Constitution Pipeline across southern Otsego County, endorsed by the county Board of Representatives. It was estimated that is would bring some $13 million a year in property taxes to municipalities the pipeline would have crossed – seven years later, that would have amounted to almost $100 million.
Instead of returning the county board’s embrace, Williams, the Houston-based pipeline builder, opted for a route through Delaware County, where it was challenged every step of the way. Eventually, in 2016, the state DEC denied the permits necessary to cross stream beds.
Just think of it. By now, the villages of Otego and Unadilla, which negotiated agreements with the Constitution builders, would have had natural gas. In Schenevus, 300+/- people might have been employed by now at a distribution center at I-88’s Exit 18.
The City of Oneonta would have had all the natural gas it might have needed for economic development. Existing institutions – the colleges, the hospitals – would have gone beyond the “interruptible powers” that, during cold snaps, requires them to burn dirty, more expensive oil. Who knows what job-producing entity might have been attracted to the D&H Railyards by now.
No, we’re not climate deniers here. It has to be addressed. Something like Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren’s proposed $2 trillion for a 10-year Apollo-like program in green research – other Democrats have similar ideas – is essential. A technological solution to climate woes – some would rather we all feel the pain – is the most desirable outcome.
Thinking back to 2012, when the county board endorsed Alternate M: The debate has become much more rigid since then, between the no-gas, no-how crowd and those espousing the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce more sensible position, seeing fossil fuels as a short- or middle-term necessity until full-service renewable technologies come on one.
As argued here before, it’s a macro problem; we’re too micro to matter. Let’s not sacrifice Upstate New York in general – and our Otsego County, in particular – on the altar of climate purism.
That said, while a federal court has overturned the DEC’s ban on the pipeline, no one’s going to be digging a trench anytime soon. The state Attorney General’s Office is certain to appeal, plus Stop the Pipeline and other local groups.
With no one knowing what may happen in the November 2020 president election, is hard to imagine anyone would embark on such a massive undertaking facing such uncertainty.
The visit to Owego was particularly poignant because it’s the one area of the state where there sufficient natural gas in the underlying Marcellus Shale to be commercially extracted. As it is, drillers in nearby Pennsylvania are tapping into New York State and extracting the resource anyhow.
Owego could be rebounding, as some of its Pennsylvania neighbors to the southeast area, instead of declining.
There’s no reason for anyone to object to renewables, but so far renewable proponents have offered no related economic-development strategies. Who doesn’t love the idea of a job-creating eco-commerce park at Oneonta’s D&H railyards. But months after the idea surfaced to enthusiasm, nothing concrete has emerged.
In the face of declining Upstate, the renewable movement has to do more than simply object. We need concepts that can be implemented. Naysayers have to become aye-sayers. Otherwise, the Constitution Pipeline may start to sound pretty good.
With this letter I join thousands of other voices decrying the passage in the U.S. Constitution that gives our president power to override a decision of our Congress, which had recently voted to end our participation with Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen that has already been responsible for thousands of deaths from bombings, starvation or untreated illnesses – a catastrophe which the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian tragedy.
Although our president had the legal right to overturn the vote of Congress, I do not believe that we the people have the moral right to now close our eyes to our responsibility for our part in the suffering and destruction that our support for Saudi Arabia’s invasion continues to cause. But we can too easily retort, “Yes, but the Constitution gives the president the legal right to reverse the decision of Congress. There’s nothing we can do if his actions are protected by the Constitution.”
True, there’s little immediate action we can take, but just as some of us are hoping to find a way to get rid of the Electoral College, which twice in our lifetimes delivered a president we did not elect by popular vote, we can begin to work toward altering the Constitution, as we did when we gave African-Americans the vote and when we gave women the vote.
Time does not stand still. The Constitution cannot lock us in the past as long as we have the will to change it to serve the needs of the present.
COOPERSTOWN – Don’t despair, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reassured her fellow Americans in an almost full 914-seat Alice Busch Opera Theatre this afternoon: Today’s dissents are often tomorrow’s majorities.
“Our Constitution has not changed, but our interpretation of it has become more perfect,” said the dean of the high court, an opera fan who has spoken to fellow fans at an annual fundraiser for five years now. The 5-foot-1 jurist – arguably, she has now spent more time in Otsego County than any justice since Cooperstown’s Samuel Nelson – was greeted with a standing ovation, wild applause and cheers; the audience gave an encore at the end.
Ginsburg’s remarks on the Constitution came during a Q&A following a 90-minute “matinee” featuring nine opera selections that related to the law, ranging Bizet’s “Carmen” to Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” to “Stay, Frederic, Stay,” from “The Pirates of Penzance,” with observations by the justice in between.
COOPERSTOWN – The county Board of Representatives may be reentering the natural-gas fray in favor of the Constitution Pipeline project.
County Reps. Jim Powers, R-Butternuts, and Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, the board’ vice chair, this morning volunteered to draft a letter for the board’s consideration as reps began focusing information from their strategic planning process into a half-dozen first-round priorities.
One of the “key initiatives” in the plan is: “Support the Constitution Pipeline and Leatherstocking Pipeline in appropriate locations in the county.”
I’m afraid that Mr. deBlieck (Letter to Editor, March 19-20) doesn’t understand what the U.S. Constitution actually says and does. Like the power to declare war and raise taxes, the power to organize and arm militias is explicitly reserved to the Congress of the United States.
Don’t believe me? Read Article One.
There are no provisions that allow the “entire population to form a militia.” Moreover, the Constitution
authorized the militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions and not to “secure the liberty of the place in which they live.”
Don’t believe me? Read Article One.
Today, everyone has an idea of what the Second Amendment means – with many Americans believing that it allows a citizen to have any kind and keep as many guns as one wants.
Let’s start with phrase “the People.” Read the Preamble of the Constitution – it says, “We, the People.” The Second Amendment allows the People (a plural usage), not individuals, to keep and carry arms when serving in the militia. Period.
Don’t believe me? Read the Preamble and the Second Amendment back-to-back.
More to the point, Congress passed laws in 1792 and 1903 delegating the authority to organize militias (and after 1903, the National Guard) to the respective states but not to individual citizens.
Don’t believe me? Read the laws.
As to the kind of weapons, in my opinion, no one needs assault weapons, which are specifically designed to kill humans with a massively high volume of firepower.
I am not an anti-gun nut. When I was younger, everyone seemed to have a gun to go hunting, and many kept their guns strapped to the back window of their truck. No one was worried about that – least of all me. Even my family kept shotguns and pistols (with a license to carry). And no one was worried about that – least of all me.
But the gun lobby, especially the National Rifle Association (NRA), has gone far beyond the America of my childhood by advancing unrestricted gun ownership.
Today, why do you think there are so many guns?? I believe that it’s all about money – the NRA’s constituents are in favor of gun control, but the NRA itself has become a powerful and influential money-maker.
Guns are sold not only to our citizens (many – about 40 percent – without a background check), but they are also sold around the world to our allies and to our enemies. Oh, that glorious money!
Our country is awash in uncounted guns. Stop to think about the things in our lives that are so destructive –and big businesses and institutions (like the NRA) are the ones making money off everyone in our country (not only guns, but alcohol, drugs, gambling, cigarettes, and vaping).
If we enforced proper and effective laws that made gun purchases legal and fair, we would not have many of these problems. Too many people go underground for their guns – and therein lies one of the biggest problems we currently have.
Gun Control does not mean people are going to take away your guns. It means that proper and effective control over the purchase of weapons best serves honest and fair Americans.
Moreover, it also means that individuals respect what our Constitution actually says and not misstate the words for their own personal satisfaction and gain.
The Constitution Pipeline Co. has announced a $6,400 scoreboard for the Unatego Spartan Booster Club and an $18,700 welding scholarship for ONC BOCES among its latest round of community grants, let’s hope those that partake in the welding scholarships are ready with their best welding coat!
The 27 grants added up to more than $300,000, bringing the total grants to the area through the current fifth round to $1.6 million. Here is the complete list of grants: