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Oneonta FERC Scoping hearing packed to the rafters

Area turnout was substantial last night in Oneonta, where FERC held the 4th in a series of Environmental Impact Scoping Hearings for the proposed Constitution Pipeline. Williams’ representatives were out in force, as was a small contingent of pro-gas/pro-pipeline people. The big story was the powerful showing of regular citizens opposed to the pipeline and hydrofracking in New York. The 750 seat auditorium in the Foothills Performing Arts center was packed to standing room only. And Stop the Pipeline signs were everywhere!

Speaker after speaker expressed deeply felt concerns over the pipeline. Dozens of folks shared stories, expressed factual evidence of faulty pipelines, negative impact to soil, water and wildlife, and relayed cases of pipeline explosions destroying personal property and killing area residents. Evidence was shared showing how the vicious cycle of the resource bust following pipeline construction and gas extraction is actually bankrupting small communities with heavy infrastructure repair costs and tragic drops in high school graduation rates all across the country.

The message was clear. Oneonta does not want the Constitution Pipeline. Furthermore, there is no need for the construction.

A tiny group of local businesses staged a gathering in support of the proposed construction. Citing positive economic impact for the area, these groups seem only too willing to hear the potential promise of jobs and money. The fact is, the jobs that exist around the construction of a pipeline are, for the most part, held by imported workers. Very few local job-seekers will find direct employment with Williams or Cabot Oil and Gas, the two companies involved in the construction project.

The Mayor of Oneonta, Dick Miller, openly expressed that there are “only positives to this project, there is no downside.” When pressed to explore the potential negative impacts of the pipeline and the obvious fracking to follow, the Mayor simply said he had seen no evidence of a downside AND that he saw no way in which the pipeline was connected to fracking.

Area business owners echoed the Mayor’s enthusiasm. Mind-numbingly blinded by the promises Williams/Cabot are pushing, these folks seem unable to see clearly that they are being openly lied to. Or they simply do not care. As the Mayor said, “I have to consider the greater good.”

Even local news outlets seems caught up in the frenzied quoting of the Williams story. Writing in the local feel-good weekly free paper, the publisher proclaimed that the pipeline will not affect local residents because it will travel the I-88 corridor. Mayor Miller, too, is beguiled by this falsehood, sharing his disbelief that route was not in the median of the highway. Reviewing the maps Williams/Cabot had laid before the 1000 plus attendees in the lobby of the Foothills atrium, it was plain to see that the “alternate Route-M” never even enters the I-88 route path, but instead is just closer to the highway, but still entirely on private property. Those for the pipe said, time and again, how pleased they were that the construction would just follow the highway track. So not true, but they were not to be dissuaded from their view. Strange, considering the proof was literally right under their noses.

It seems that when it comes to most elected officials and area business leaders, willful ignorance is alive and well in Oneonta. We can only hope that FERC got the message that the people who are awake and paying attention DO NOT WANT THE CONSTITUTION PIPELINE.