BETHLEHEM — Plans for the Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline, which was proposed to run through parts of Selkirk and New Scotland, have been suspended.
Kinder Morgan had planned for NED to run through Schoharie, Albany and Rensselaer Counties to transport natural gas from Pennsylvania to Boston Harbor.
Opponents to the project had cited environmental concerns and land conservancy issues.
Locally, First Reformed Church of Bethlehem in Selkirk opposed the pipeline because, through eminent domain, Kinder Morgan would seize land bordering the church’s century-old historically significant cemetery.
In the company’s April 21 statement, Kinder Morgan cited “inadequate capacity commitments from prospective customers.”
Protesters, spearheaded by Stop New York Fracked Gas Pipeline (SNYFPG), had long hoped for this conclusion.
“Our opinion from the beginning was that Kinder Morgan wouldn’t succeed primarily because of current market forces that have made gas prices plummet and that made Kinder Morgan stock price plummet as a result. We believe that this reality, combined with fierce, cumulative and cohesive public opposition in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York, was the final straw that broke Kinder Morgan’s back,” said SNYFPG co-founder Bob Conners in a letter to supporters.
The proposed gasline would not have been the first to run through Bethlehem. Two run through town, one of which dates back to the 1950s. The second pipeline was erected in the 1980s. An extension to the more recent line was approved only last year.
Opposition to the NED pipeline was the strongest the town has seen. Several recent Town Hall meetings have been full of protesters voicing opposition to Town Board. In response, Town Board passed a resolution against the pipeline, drafted by Councilman David VanLuven. Though the resolution would do little to stop the pipeline, as approval or disapproval would have come at the federal level, it acted as a signal to higher governing bodies that locals officials were not in favor of the project.
“I did a ton of research, and talked [to] a lot of people directly affected and it was pretty clear that we were going to bear all the risk, we were going to carry all the costs, and we were going to get zero benefits,” said VanLuven. And, “If it had been cleared by FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] a private corporation would have been given the authority to take private land through eminent domain without delivering any public benefit,” which VanLuven stated was the core of his opposition.
VanLuven said he was thrilled to learn of the suspension, and gave much of the credit to the Bethlehem First Reformed Church.
“It’s a lot for individuals to take on a big corporation with very little support from local or state or federal law… I stress that this was done by individuals because I think it was the grass roots effort that stopped this pipeline.” Their protests, he said, created a ground swelling of opposition that educated and motivated elected officials in town, which then marked the project as a red flag for potential investors.
“All the credit for this needs to go to the people at the First Reformed Church of Bethlehem,” said VanLuven. “They knocked on doors, they educated their neighbors, they came to meetings – it was great.”
The plan for the pipeline has not been officially withdrawn from the FERC, which has some officials worried. For now, VanLuven is focused on this victory. “I think it’s dead,” said VanLuven of the NED pipeline, “but I think we have to keep our eyes opened for re-submmital, and we do have more pipelines that are proposed to run through town.”
News of the suspension of NED also came shortly after news that New York state had denied a request for a separate pipeline, the Constitution pipeline. Senators Kristen Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer were among opponents at the state level for both pipelines.
The Application “fails in a meaningful way to address the significant water resource impacts that could occur from this Project and has failed to provide sufficient information to demonstrate compliance with New York State water quality standards. Constitution’s failure to adequately address these concerns limited the Department’s ability to assess the impacts and conclude that the Project will comply water quality standards. Accordingly, Constitution’s request for a WQC is denied,” reads an excerpt from a 14 page letter released by the state.
Just before Kinder Morgan revoked its plans for NED, a similar denial was made for the pipeline in Massachusetts.
There are other projects similar to the NED and the Constitution pipelines SNYFGP continues to protest, including the Kinder Morgan Connecticut Expansion project, the Spectra AIM Project, several gas powered power-plants, the Pilgrim Pipeline and the Seneca Lake Salt Caverns (proposed to be filled for gas storage).
“Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline will forge onward with our newly formed group of activists to continue fighting climate change and creating a renewable energy future,” said the group in a statement.
As the Pilgrim Pipeline is proposed to run through Bethlehem at the town’s Soccerplex in Glenmont, the fight is not over.
More on the Pilgrim Pipeline in the next issue of Spotlight News.