Historically low natural gas prices and the public’s desire for cleaner energy have fueled the growing popularity of natural gas. Clean-burning natural gas currently produces one-third of all electric generation and heats about half of all U.S. homes – and those numbers continue to climb.
Williams, a leading energy infrastructure company, has partnered with Cabot Oil & Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas, and WGL Holdings to develop a major transmission pipeline project to connect abundant Appalachian natural gas supplies in northern Pennsylvania with major northeastern markets.
The approximately 124-mile Constitution Pipeline is being designed with a capacity to transport 650,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day (enough natural gas to serve approximately 3 million homes). Buried underground, the 30-inch pipeline would extend from Susquehanna County, Pa., to the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, N.Y. The proposed project route stretches from Susquehanna County, Pa., into Broome County, N.Y., Chenango County, N.Y., Delaware County, N.Y., and terminates in Schoharie County, N.Y.
Natural Gas Production
The Constitution Pipeline is being designed to transport natural gas that has already been produced in Pennsylvania. The pipeline is not dependent upon nor does it require the development of new natural gas wells along the project’s proposed path. The pipeline is already fully contracted with long-term commitments from established natural gas producers currently operating in Pennsylvania.
Before the pipeline can be constructed, Constitution Pipeline Company must first obtain a federal Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in addition to various state and local permits. The company filed an applicaiton with the FERC on June 13, 2013. The project was assigned docket number CP13-499. To view a copy of the application, click here.
Constitution Pipeline Company initiated a pre-filing environmental review of the proposed pipeline route in April 2012. The FERC pre-filing process is intended to solicit early input from citizens, governmental entities and other interested parties to identify and address issues with potential facility locations. The company hosted a series of public open houses during the summer of 2012 in the affected areas to formally introduce the proposal to the public and solicit feedback. Public input is important to the project and will shape the final project route.
Developing a Pipeline Route
In developing the primary proposed route, project engineers attempt to balance environmental and landowner considerations with the engineering requirements for safely constructing a transmission pipeline. These factors include geography, environmental concerns, collocation with other linear development and constructability.
The proposed route is part of a study corridor and is subject to change. It attempts to maximize opportunities to co-locate with existing corridors (power transmission lines, road right-of-way, I-88 corridor and existing pipeline corridors), while avoiding watersheds and aqueduct tunnels. The proposed route avoids populated areas where possible, while minimizing impacts to wetland, riparian and other high value wildlife habitat areas. The route also minimizes river and stream crossings to reduce environmental impact.
Ground surveys are a preliminary first step in gathering critical information that can be used in developing a pipeline proposal. Initial ground surveys (environmental, cultural and civil surveys) began in the spring of 2012. After receiving permission from the landowner, each property will be visited by various specialists in land, engineering and environmental sciences. These may or may not be concurrent visits but should not last longer than one or two days each. Some properties may need to be revisited to obtain additional data. All information collected will be used to help us determine the best location of the proposed pipeline facilities.
- April 2012 – Pre-filing process began
- June 2012 – Ground surveys began and are ongoing
- July & Sept 2012 – Open houses and informational meetings
- Fall 2012 – FERC scoping hearings
- Fall 2012 – Begin limited easement negotiations
- February 2013 – Submit draft environmental report to FERC
- June 2013 – Submit 7(c) application to FERC
- February 2014 – FERC issues draft EIS
- Late 2015 / 2016 – Target in-service
The presence of a natural gas transmission pipeline creates a backbone for future economic growth in the region. There will be significant short-term economic impacts during the construction phase of the project. Restaurants, hotels/motels, and retailers will experience increased activity from construction crews. The state and local community will benefit economically through state and local sales and also taxes paid for the materials and equipment purchased to be installed at the job sites. Local communities will also benefit from property taxes that Constitution Pipeline Company will pay during the ongoing operation of the pipeline.
Constitution Pipeline Company worked with the Center for Governmental Research to develop a formal economic analysis of the potential economic benefits generated by the project. That formal study, which was completed in January 2013 and updated in July 2013, indicates the economic impact during the construction phase would result in $130 million in new labor income in the region, approximately $26 million going to residents of the region.
During the construction phase, it is estimated that the workforce will be comprised of five teams of 260 workers totaling up to 1,300 new construction jobs. About 50 percent of the construction workforce will come from in-state labor. However, due to the specialized nature of pipeline construction, contractors may need to hire personnel from outside of the project area. At this time, it is anticipated that approximately 25 percent of the construction workforce will be hired locally (i.e., within the 5-county project area).
The project is expected to generate $17 million in new sales and income tax revenue. Constitution Pipeline projects to spend about $683 million during the initial three year planning and building process, approximately $166 million of which would directly benefit the five county region. Once operational, the pipeline’s economic impact is anticipated to result in $13 million in new annual sales, income and property tax revenue and more than $600,000 in new income in the region. To view the complete study, click here.
Projected Annual Property Tax Benefit:
- Broome County – $2.1 million
- Chenago County – $1.3 million
- Delaware County – $4.9 million
- Schoharie County – $4.4 million
Local Natural Gas Service
Constitution Pipeline would be considered an “open access pipeline,” meaning that local municipalities or public utilities could potentially tap the line in the future to provide residential, commercial and industrial natural gas service.
One such provider Constitution is working with is Leatherstocking Gas Company, LLC. In March 2014 Constitution Pipeline and Leatherstocking announced an agreement to install four delivery interconnects along Constitution’s proposed pipeline route for the purpose of facilitating potential local natural gas service. Leatherstocking’s plan is to develop local natural gas distribution systems within Broome, Chenango, Delaware, and Madison Counties in New York State and Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania in locations currently without natural gas service.
Constitution Pipeline Company is committed to working with landowners, as well as local, state and federal agencies, to design and construct the project in a manner that minimizes environmental and landowner impacts. The company is committed to extensive public outreach in advance of submitting our application to the FERC. Our goals are to:
- Generate a broad awareness of the project, its purposes and value to the region’s economy and to meeting the future energy needs of the state and region.
- Ensure that community residents and a broad range of stakeholders have ample opportunity to understand the process and their rights, ask questions, voice concerns and present ideas about the project.
- Create an atmosphere of openness, disclosure and public dialogue in which we can respond to questions, concerns and suggestions presented by the community and other stakeholders.