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Tompkins requests public hearing on Dominion pipeline


The former CNG Transmission Station on Ellis Hollow Creek Road, now owned by Dominion. The station has been the site of a petroleum spill of unknown scope, according to new data.
(Photo: NICK REYNOLDS / Staff Photo)

Tompkins County legislators voted Tuesday to request a public hearing discussing the Dominion New Market Pipeline project.

The project would involve the expansion of its existing pipeline systems in New York as well as construction and modification of compressor stations. The 200-mile natural gas pipeline passes through Tompkins County and includes the Borger Compressor Station at 219 Ellis Hollow Creek Road. The Department of Environmental Conservation is accepting public comments until Monday regarding draft air discharge permits.

The issue drew dozens of people to the Tompkins legislature meeting Tuesday, and 16 people spoke in support of the resolution. Local residents opposed to the pipeline voiced concerns about environmental and safety hazards of the pipeline and urged Tompkins County legislators to go further and oppose the project.

The legislature voted unanimously to request the DEC to hold a public hearing.

Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, called on legislators to oppose the pipeline because it would cause additional toxic pollution hazards in Tompkins County and across New York, he said. Hang also said the pipeline would also "help perpetuate America's addiction to fossil fuels" and contribute to global climate change.

"The key thing is, I urge you to take action now because the deadline for comment is ending (Sept.) 12th," Hang said.

At a press conference in early August, Hang told reporters that a number of petroleum spills at several transmission stations along the pipeline's route from Horseheads to Schenectady — including two in Dryden — could put the project in jeopardy as it violated the Clean Water Act. Hang said the spills that occurred on the sites have not been cleaned up.

However, Dominion Transmission disagreed with Hang's claim, saying no sites in New York need cleanup. Dominion Transmission said in a statement that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project in April after evaluating all environmental, health and safety concerns associated with the project.

Regi Teasley said Tompkins County should oppose the pipeline to show leadership on issues of climate change. Other local residents said if legislators opposed the pipeline, it would be consistent with their actions over the years regarding fossil fuels and sustainability.

Ultimately, legislators did not add an amendment opposing the project. Many legislators agreed with Dooley Kiefer, D-Cayuga Heights, who said opposing the pipeline would complicate the county's request for a public hearing.

"They would certainly not schedule a public hearing when we've already told them where we stand," Kiefer said. "But I think requesting a public hearing is exactly what we should be doing. ... That does not mean that individuals legislators cannot, as individuals, comment."

Carol Chock, D-Ithaca, moved to add two amendments to the resolution requesting more studies be done. The first study would look at the capacity of the pipeline segments in Tompkins County to see if it could withstand the proposed increased volume and pressure before any permit is issued. The second amendment calls on the DEC to study greenhouse gas emissions along the length of proposed pipeline in New York State, "including carbon equivalents from methane and utilizing recent scientific evidence regarding methane leakage, as has been done in the 2016 Tompkins County Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory."

Both amendments unanimously passed, as did the full resolution requesting a public hearing.

Three public hearings have passed, but members of the public can still file written comments to the NYS DEC. All comments must be postmarked or submitted electronically by fax or email no later than Monday. Contact: Christopher M. Hogan, NYS DEC - Division of Environmental Permits, 625 Broadway, 4th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-1750, Phone: (518) 402-9151, Fax: (518) 402-9168, Email: