Cuomo’s Keystone Moment – Constitution, Pipelines

Cuomo’s Keystone Moment – Needs to Block Constitution Pipeline

Urged to Announce End of Fossil Fuels, Commit to 100% Renewables at SOS

Climate change activists are urging Governor Cuomo to announce in his State of the State (SOS) address this Wednesday that he will halt the Constitution Pipeline, along with the dozens of other proposed pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure projects (e.g., Seneca Lake, CPV in Orange Co,) in the state.

The groups are holding a State of the Climate rally in Albany on Wednesday for the Governor’s SOS address

The builders of the Constitution Pipeline have just requested permission from the FERC (Federal Energy and Regulator Commission) to begin tree cutting without receiving a water quality certification from NYS, effectively planning an end-run around NYS authority to regulate under the Clean Water Act.

“It is time for the Governor to officially announce that the era of fossil fuels is over and begin to use his power to stop the flood of natural gas and fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are swamping are state – including oil bomb trains and power plants. He needs to commit to moving to 100% clean energy as soon as possible for all our energy needs – not just electricity but buildings, transportation and agriculture,” said Mark Dunlea, Chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund.

‘These projects are hangovers from the height of the fossil fuel era, and if they’re built they’ll keep us from making the real progress on renewables that we must. Governor Cuomo has a unique chance to show where the future lies,” added Bill McKibben of

Groups note that the transition to renewable energy will create far more jobs, lower electric bills and is healthier than continued reliance upon fossil fuels. Investing billions of dollars in building out the fossil fuel infrastructure would lock in their use for decades. Methane is 87 times more potent as a greenhouse gas and already accounts for the majority of energy in the state. The massive methane leak presently out of control in California is similar in damage to the BP oil spill. Yet the Cuomo administration wants to further increase the use of natural gas as a cheaper “cleaner” alternative to oil and coal.

Climate activists say that Governor Cuomo’s “Keystone” is the ill-conceived “Constitution” pipeline, a 124-mile long interstate gas pipeline that would run from Pennsylvania, up through the Catskills, to a point west of Albany, turning forests and farmland into an industrial corridor. If approved, developers would cut 700,000 trees, which amounts to the clear-cutting 1000 acres of old-growth forest.

Constitution Pipeline will trench 277 mountain streams and wetlands, although DEC, federal and industry best practices dictate drilling under streams in flood-prone regions. Forest segmentation and damage to New York’s native trout fishery and the tourism industry it supports, are among the negative impacts of this catastrophic project.  Clear-cutting forests will cause massive erosion, particularly on the areas’ steep slopes, contaminating streams and watersheds. The area already experiences severe flooding, and the proposed construction would increase flooding damage in central New York. It would also set us back on addressing climate change.

The Constitution Pipeline would increase fracking in Pennsylvania and ship the gas through New York to higher-paying markets in the northeast, Canada and overseas.

FERC has oversight over gas pipelines and tends to rubber stamp all of them. However, the State Department of Environmental Conservation can trump FERC approval as it must issue a 401 Clean Water Certification that a project will not damage New York’s high water quality standard.  Without a 401WQC, Constitution Pipeline is dead. Other major pending projects include NED (Northeast Energy Direct / Kinder Morgan) and Algonquin (AIM), which will run next to the Indian Point nuclear power plant).

Groups like the Sierra Club have urged the Governor to do a comprehensive environmental review of the various pipeline projects which will run through thousands of streams and wetlands across the state, threatening water supplies and promoting erosion in sensitive areas. Groups also hope to introduce legislation to block the development of fossil fuel related projects in the state as being detrimental to the effort to curb climate change and to protect the health and safety of local residents.

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