- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—After a three-year battle to keep the Constitution Pipeline from traversing their environmentally fragile private forest, the Henry Kernan Land Trust has convinced the project’s planners to adopt a path that avoids the pristine woodlot.

Bruce Kernan of South Worcester, a son of noted forester Henry S. Kernan, who cultivated the forest, said the change in the route will spare the 1,000-acre Charlotte Forest in Harpersfield from “severe and irreversible” damage.

Both Bruce and his brother, Dev Kernan, also of South Worcester, expressed relief that the route has been altered to circumvent the sensitive wetlands that surround Clapper Lake and Mud Pond on the property acquired by their father in the 1940s.

Their struggle against the pipeline route has been a public one, with The Daily Star first reporting on their fight against the route in October 2013. Their battle would later draw the attention of the New York Times and the Associated Press.

The route that had the pipeline crossing the Kernan property had been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, though the state Department of Environmental Conservation has since registered concerns after the Kernan family members provided the agency with their detailed objections.

The revised route was adopted in response to comments from the landowner and the state DEC, pipeline spokesman Christopher Stockton said. He said the re-route reduces the project’s overall impact on water bodies and wetlands by about two acres, and crosses 22 parcels, including 14 parcels owned by 11 landowners.

“Each of the newly affected landowners have signed easement agreements with Constitution,” Stockton said. “This is a good example of our commitment to working with landowners and permitting agencies to actively address concerns and mitigate environmental impacts.”

But Bruce Kernan, a professional forester, said he remains concerns about the environmental impacts to numerous tracts of land that would be crossed by the underground pipeline should it succeed in getting the final permits it needs from the state environmental agency. FERC had already authorized the project, pending the state decision.

“Clapper Lake and Mud Pond form only one of the many pristine wetlands the Constitution Pipeline will degrade,” Bruce Kernan said. “Why has Constitution Pipeline insisted on a ‘greenfield’ route across the tops of mountains where forests and wetlands predominate?”

He also accused the company of ignoring the family’s efforts to call attention to the environmental sensitivity of the Charlotte Forest, and said it waited to redraw the route in response to pressure from government regulators.

Stockton said the route that had the pipeline crossing the Charlotte Forest was drawn up at a time when the landowners were refusing to allow survey teams to enter the property. Access to the land was not allowed by the Kernan Trust until a few months ago, he noted.

“Earlier survey access would have allowed us to better identify the environmental issues much sooner, providing us with more time to alter the design to avoid impacts to the wetlands complex,” Stockton said.

Company officials have said the 124-mile pipeline, stretching from northeast Pennsylvania to the Schoharie County town of Wright, will carry enough gas to power 3 million homes in the Northeast. Locally, the Leatherstocking Gas Corp. is planning to run a feeder pipeline off the Constitution that would supply gas to the Amphenol Aerospace plant in Sidney and several communities.

Critics of the pipeline project argue that the gas it would carry is not needed in New England.

A second pipeline project, Northeast Energy Direct (NED), proposed by Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Co., would run alongside much of the Constitution route. The regulatory review of the NED pipeline is only just beginning, while the Constitution project has acquired easements to all properties along its route.

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(c)2015 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)

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