Vicariously Attend FERC Scoping Hearing on Constitution Pipeline

microphone in auditoriumMDN editor Jim Willis attended the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) scoping hearing for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Constitution Pipeline last Wednesday night (April 2nd) in Afton, NY. Held at the local Afton High School auditorium, there were 250-300 people in the audience. Some 50 or so signed up to address the three FERC representatives who were there to listen to public testimony about the DEIS and proposed plan to build a 30-inch, 124-mile pipeline from Susquehanna County, PA to Schoharie County, NY to carry cheap, abundant Marcellus Shale gas to markets that include New York City and New England. The pipeline project is projected to cost $683 million (money pumped mostly into the upstate New York economy), and provide 1,300 temporary jobs while it’s built.

To say it was a lively audience would be an understatement. Jim stuck around for more than two hours to listen and observe. In one sense the hearing was not unlike others Jim has sat through. But in another sense, it was different–even instructive. More than one speaker on the anti-drilling side bemoaned the fact that Williams and the Constitution Pipeline has “split the community” and has “pitted neighbor against neighbor.” Really? What Jim witnessed was a vibrant, healthy, vigorous political discussion not unlike the discussions neighbors have been having with neighbors since the founding of our great country. We gather and engage in a spirited debate–sometimes shouting matches–to avoid killing each other. We are not (yet) a banana republic. We are still (for now) a nation of laws. Loud and boisterous debate is our proud heritage and it should be encouraged–not discouraged. What Jim saw heartened him, instead of the opposite.

And what did Jim see? You could say the speakers broke into two camps–for and against the pipeline. But that would be too simplistic. Come along with Jim as he introduces you to several speakers from that night, representing not a simple for/against mindset, but a continuum of outright support to outright opposition–with many shades in between. We’ll do it through the lens of four archetypes that we think best represent the passion, emotions and arguments presented at the meeting…

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