What is contributing to the popularity of natural gas?
Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. hit an 18-year low in 2012. The reason? Natural gas.
Natural gas is more popular today than it’s ever been. In recent years, the share of the nation’s electricity produced by natural gas has increased from 20 to 30 percent, while the proportion produced by coal has fallen from 50 to 37 percent. That’s because natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, producing half the emissions of coal.
Recent discoveries of vast domestic natural gas supplies have also made the fuel more affordable and reliable.
For more information on the factors driving the rising demand for natural gas, click here.
Has the location of the pipeline been determined?
Constitution Pipeline Company has identified a revised primary route which attempts to maximize opportunities to follow 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.
Since the pipeline project was first introduced last year, Constitution Pipeline has developed and maintained an open dialogue with communities. This partnership has resulted in the evaluation or incorporation of nearly 400 route changes – a process that is still ongoing. In fact, we’ve followed through on our commitment to be responsive to communities and minimize environmental impacts by making adjustments to more than 50 percent of the original pipeline route – most a direct result of stakeholder input.
Did you consider placing the pipeline directly adjacent to I-88?
As requested by FERC, Constitution conducted engineering studies to assess the viability of collocating all, or portions of the pipeline adjacent to I-88. This was identified as Alternate Route M. After an extensive review, it was determined that construction and environmental impacts associated with Alternate Route M are significantly greater than the impacts associated with the revised primary route.
When compared with Alternate Route M, the revised primary route features less overall land impacts, including approximately 87 fewer acres of total forest impacts during construction. It also features about 20 fewer miles of side slope construction, which significantly reduces severe erosion, runoff and revegetation issues. The revised primary route also features fewer water body crossings (22 fewer) and significantly fewer residences within close proximity to the proposed pipeline.
In addition, the revised primary route provides an opportunity to make modifications to the existing Iroquois Gas Transmission Wright compressor station, eliminating the need for Constitution Pipeline to construct a new 32,000-horsepower compressor facility in Schoharie County as originally proposed.
Why can’t the pipeline be routed within the I-88 median?
The construction workspace needed to safely construct an interstate pipeline is 110-125 feet. The width of the median is approximately half of what would be needed. In addition, there is severe sloping along the side of the median that would make construction problematic.
Why is side-slope construction an issue?
Side slope construction introduces more hazardous working and operating conditions, as well as the potential for severe erosion and landslide potential. It also increases the amount of required work space from 110-feet to 150-feet.
How deep is the pipeline placed and how is this affected by ground slope?
The U.S. Department of Transportation requires a minimum depth of cover of three feet over the top of the pipeline in standard soil conditions. Within agricultural areas, Constitution will bury the pipeline to a minimum depth of four feet to allow for continued agricultural use of the land. In areas of bedrock, the U.S. DOT minimum depth of cover is two feet. The depth of cover over the pipeline is not typically affected by ground slope unless there are significant areas of shallow bedrock. Ground slope does, however, potentially affect the extent of construction workspace required as a wider width is needed on side-slopes to ensure safe working conditions.
Could local communities receive natural gas service from this pipeline?
The 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.
An example of a local gas service provider with whom Constitution Pipeline Company is currently working is Leatherstocking Gas Company. Constitution and Leatherstocking have signed an agreement to work in good faith to pursue agreements for the design, construction and operation of delivery interconnects along Constitution’s proposed pipeline route.
Leatherstocking’s vision is the development of natural gas local 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. The company plans to begin constructing portions of its natural gas distribution networks not dependent upon Constitution Pipeline in the summer of 2013.
Will I be notified if the proposed pipeline might affect my property?
Yes. Landowners whose property may be affected by the proposed route will be contacted by a Constitution Pipeline land representative requesting permission for company representatives to conduct various surveys on their property. All potentially affected landowners will receive information from FERC and from Constitution Pipeline advising that their property may be affected by the pipeline project. It will also include the dates and locations of public meetings and instructions for obtaining more information.
What is the purpose of pipeline surveys?
Ground surveys are a preliminary first step in gathering critical information that can be used in developing a pipeline proposal. The process of conducting these surveys involves several steps. Generally, 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 location of the proposed pipeline facilities. Nothing will be removed from your property without your permission. Vehicular traffic will be confined to existing roads and access ways. After the survey teams are finished, you may see survey stakes and/or ribbon tied to fences or vegetation. These markers are necessary to maintain a line of sight for the areas that have been surveyed. In areas where brush or tall grass is encountered, crews may need to cut some of this vegetation to maintain the line of sight. Some minor surface disturbance may be required with hand tools to collect soil samples. Our survey crews will take every precaution to ensure no damage to your property or disruption of your daily activities will occur.
Who decides if the pipeline project gets built?
Interstate natural gas pipelines are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). As such, FERC requires operators to obtain a federal Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, in addition to various state and local permits, before any pipeline facilities can be built.
How long does the process take?
Depending on the size of the project, the federal review and time needed for pipeline construction can vary. For the Constitution Pipeline, the company filed an application with the FERC in the June 2013. If approved by FERC, the company could begin construction as early as the first quarter of 2015 and place the pipeline into service in late 2015 or 2016.
Is this pipeline dependent upon hydraulic fracturing being allowed in the southern tier of New York?
No. The proposed pipeline is being designed to transport natural gas that has already been produced in Pennsylvania, not New York.
If constructed, will the presence of this pipeline line open the door for hydraulic fracturing in New York?
No. The Constitution Pipeline is already fully contracted with long-term customer commitments. There are no natural gas wells in New York associated with the proposed project.
What is a right-of-way agreement?
A right-of-way agreement allows for the use of a portion of your land for locating our pipeline. Landowners are offered financial compensation in exchange for granting a permanent easement to Constitution Pipeline Company. A contract for a right-of-way is a standard easement agreement, but can be tailored if necessary to meet a landowner’s unique concerns.
What is an easement?
An easement is a limited right to use the land for specific purposes. Constitution Pipeline Company will compensate the landowner for the right to construct, operate and maintain an underground pipeline (and, in limited cases, aboveground equipment related to the pipeline such as valves, and cathodic protection sites).
What size will the easement be?
The amount of land required for the easement will vary on each tract of land depending on a number of factors. A Constitution Pipeline land agent will discuss the land requirements with the landowner during the easement negotiations. Typically, a 50-foot wide easement is required for operation and maintenance of the pipeline. The total width of the construction workspace will vary depending on such factors as slope, soil conditions and regulatory requirements. Generally, approximately 85 to 125 feet of workspace will be required to construct the pipeline. All temporary workspace will revert to the landowner upon completion of construction, with no restrictions.
How will the value of the easement be determined?
The valuation of the easement will be determined by the market value of land in the area as determined by independent sources such as county deed and tax records, local appraisers, real estate brokers and other real estate professionals, considering such factors as length, width, existing use and comparable land sales in the area. Impact to the remaining property may also be considered. This information will be shared with the landowner and fair compensation will be offered.
Will I still own the land? Can I still use it?
It is important to note that an easement does not transfer title of the land; it merely grants the right to use the land for the specific purposes stated in the easement agreement. After construction of the pipeline, most uses of the surface of the land will be permitted, including farming activities such as crop production or raising livestock. Two notable exceptions include planting trees within the easement or placing a permanent structure within the easement, both of which are prohibited.
What will the presence of the pipeline do to my property values?
Historically speaking, natural gas pipeline easements have had no measureable effect on property values. In fact, a 2001 national case study revealed no significant impact on property sales located along natural gas pipelines. The study also revealed that there were no significant impacts on demand for properties within the geographically diverse areas and that the presence of a pipeline did not impede development of the surrounding properties.
What will the presence of the pipeline affect my homeowners insurance?
It has been our experience that insurance underwriters have not considered the presence of a transmission pipeline when determining the cost and coverage of property insurance.
Will products besides natural gas be transported through the pipeline?
No. The application to the FERC is for a pipeline which will transport natural gas, not other liquids or petroleum products.
Am I going to see bulldozers and pick-up trucks driving all over my land?
All construction activities will be restricted to the right-of-way and temporary workspace areas granted during the negotiations. Only those roads agreed to in advance will be used by the construction crews.
How will the pipeline affect land drainage?
The right-of-way will be graded after construction to allow normal water drainage. All drainages will be returned to their original patterns. The right-of-way may be terraced, seeded, mulched or otherwise stabilized to prevent erosion.
What precautions will be taken to prevent the subsoil from mixing with the topsoil?
In agricultural and other select areas, topsoil will be excavated and segregated into separate stockpiles to allow for the re-establishment of the original soil profile. In agricultural fields, hayfields or other fields used for crops, the top 12 inches of topsoil will be segregated into a separate stockpile. In places that have less than 12 inches of topsoil, all of it will be removed and stored separately. Once construction is complete, the subsoil will be placed into the trench first, followed by the topsoil.
What does the company do to protect water wells?
Constitution will conduct pre and post-construction testing of potable wells and springs within 150 feet of the construction workspace areas. Affected landowners outside of this radius that are interested in having potable water source testing conducted should contact their land agent.
What happens if roads are damaged during pipeline construction?
Road damage caused during pipeline construction will be repaired by Constitution. The company will work closely with the appropriate local and state permitting agencies to identify permit requirements, secure necessary bonds and procure construction permits for roadway travel. These permits will identify any road weight / size-use limits of specific roads designated to transport equipment or materials. Each road’s condition is documented with video prior to construction, then re-evaluated after construction so that necessary road repairs can be made.
Is frost heaving a threat to the Constitution Pipeline?
No. The pipe will be buried at such a depth that frost heaving (the freezing and subsequent thawing of soil) would be minimal. In the rare case that it did develop, the pipeline will be engineered and constructed in such a manner that any external pressure created by frost heaving would be minor and would not pose a safety hazard.
What type of safety valves do you plan to install?
Remote controlled shut off valves monitored 24 hours a day.
How will you ensure that the pipeline operates safely?
The proposed Constitution Pipeline is being designed with safety as its top priority, adopting design features and operating practices that will exceed already stringent industry and regulatory safety standards. Some of the measures will include:
- Remote controlled shut off valves monitored 24 hours a day
- More frequent inspections than are required by law, including regular inspections with highly-sophisticated internal inspection tools
- X-raying 100% of pipeline welds
- In certain areas, installing thicker steel pipe than is required by regulations
Do you take fault lines into account when designing the pipeline?
Part of the pipeline design process will include engaging seismic experts to identify fault lines in areas of the proposed pipeline route. Once these areas are identified, pipeline engineers will incorporate special design features to mitigate any issues the fault could create (e.g. thicker walled pipe; extra padded material during construction).
Why isn’t the Williams Central Station part of the overall federal scoping process for the Constitution Pipeline?
Because the Constitution Pipeline and the Central Station are two distinct and separate projects.
What is the role of the Central Station?
Transmission pipelines – like Constitution – require the delivery of compressed, “pipeline quality” natural gas into its systems. Central Station is a collection point that will condition and pressurize natural gas from the surrounding area and send it to the transmission line’s metering facility and on to markets.
If the Constitution Pipeline is not approved, is there a role for Central Station?
Yes, the Constitution Pipeline is not the only transmission line served by Central. The existing Springville line will also receive gas that passes through and is compressed at the Central Station. In other words, the Central Station will be built regardless if the Constitution Pipeline is approved or not.
Isn’t the Central Station really the start of the Constitution Pipeline?
While the gas is prepared and pressurized at Central, the actual beginning of any natural gas transmission line is the receipt point, or metering station, located outside the field compression stations. If the Constitution Pipeline is approved, a metering station outside the Central Station fence line will be built by Constitution.
Will this gas be exported overseas?
This gas will be delivered to customers served by the Iroquois and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems. There are no natural gas LNG export terminals in this region.
Can this gas ultimately be delivered by existing pipeline infrastructure without constructing a new pipeline?
There is no pipeline currently connecting supplies in north & central Pennsylvania to the existing pipeline infrastructure in northern New York. The pipelines that transect the region are currently fully subscribed and serving other needs.
What steps will Constitution Pipeline take in areas where it the pipeline construction could cross organic farms?
A special construction plan will be developed in cooperation with the NY State Department of Agriculture & Markets to outline the steps Constitution Pipeline would take to protect organic farms along the construction route to ensure they keep their organic certification.