Sep 19, 2009 Doug Campbell Uncategorized
Lebanon town board members tabled action on a series of road bore requests filed by Nornew Inc connected to a proposed 8.2 mile 16 inch high pressure steel natural gas pipeline Monday after a standing room only public hearing attended by over 40 in which a number of town residents and property owners objected to the proposal and expressed concerns about public safety and environmental impacts to several state Public Service Commission staff members.
Lebanon Supervisor Jim Goldstein, after conducting a public informational meeting that lasted nearly two hours, clarified with PSC officials in attendance that if the town declined to approve the road bore request, that the proposal might be delayed or the proposed route would have to be reconfigured by the natural gas developer. Nornew Inc. representatives have filed documents and exhibits with the PSC which are on line for viewing at the state PSC web site, including Goldstein polled the audience and the large group of Lebanon residents were unanimous in their opposition to the road bore approval at this time due to safety concerns and inspection/oversight questions, as well as environmental and farmland preservation issues.
Lebanon Town Council member Carol King voted to table the resolution, seconded by Council Lois Hartshorn, so the town board will not act on the road bore permit request for portions of town roads including Vosburg, Bastain, Lebanon Center and Lebanon Hill roads until their next board meeting on Oct. 13. Supervisor Goldstein said the town board would be obligated to act at that time according to procedure, but could vote the road bore permit request down at that time, depending on whether or not the multiple questions raised at the public hearing were adequately addressed by Nornew Inc and PSC officials.
Goldstein was informed by PSC Assistant Counsel Ashli Priscott that the comments at the hearing requested by Lebanon officials on Monday would not be formally transmitted to the PSC but would be passed on, and that taking testimony on a proposed pipeline project would require a public statement hearing at which comments would be heard by an administrative law judge and recorded into the record.
Goldstein filed a request for such a hearing in Lebanon as soon as possible with the PSC and requested that the PSC delay any action on the proposed pipeline until such a hearing is held and comments read into the record and considered by the PSC from concerned Lebanon residents.
Goldstein reported later in the week to town residents that Assemblyman William Magee, at his request, has reached out to the PSC to try to schedule a public statement hearing for the town’s concerned residents.
Priscott, John Straub and Kevin Speicher of the PSC were there to address public safety, environmental, farmland preservation and regulatory concerns, but a large number of town residents took issue with the limited scope of oversight described by the PSC staffers, and the lack of specific answers provided by Nornew representatives Dennis Lutes, Safety Coordinator Doug Stebbins and Nornew pipeline officials concerning protections for seismic shocks, inspection, security, oversight and safety.
The entire hearing was recorded by PAC 99 Time Warner Cable for delayed broadcast and will be available for distribution.
Goldstein said the major concern voiced by residents had to do with Nornew’s admission and the PSC’s confirmation that the proposed 16 inch high pressure steel natural gas pipeline would be the first of its kind in the region constructed by Nornew and that this pipeline was going to run along the same route in the same 50-foot wide right of way as the current existing transmission lines that have been installed over the last few years.
Goldstein said residents objected to what they saw as being treated as “guinea pigs” for the project after witnessing two gas well rig fires and one diesel fuel spill in the last 9 months in the area associated with Nornew. There were also concerns about the lack of specific and detailed explanations by Nornew and PSC officials regarding inspection, oversight and self-regulation/self-reporting on safety issues.
In other town board action on Sept. 14, town officials:
— Approved a Cold War Veterans Property Tax Exemption that will go into effect in 2010 for eligible cold war veterans. The local law mirrors the Madison County exemption.
— Approved several resolutions requested by Reality Check of Madison County to support anti-tobacco efforts in the community.
— Authorized the Town Supervisor to pursue grant funds to help with energy efficiency upgrades and boiler repairs related to the recent New York State Energy and Research Authority efficiency audit.
— Approved by-laws for the town planning board.
— Heard updates on the progress made by the town’s adhoc Amish Committee with code enforcement questions.
— Discussed problems with the used highway mower and considerations for replacing vs. repair the machine next year by purchase or lease given it has been down for repairs three times this year already.
— Discussed 2010 budget projections and impact of state retirement increases and lost revenue on the sales tax/interest income/revenue side.