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Anti-gas pipeline group warns residents of I-81 pipeline

Stop I-81 Pipeline Group
The path the I-81 pipeline would take from Onondaga to the Binghamton area.

Homeowners along an abandoned gas line across three central New York counties are getting advice about how to deal with gas companies who may come knocking.

The Millennium Pipeline Company is trying to get federal approval to build a 60-mile pipeline from the town of Onondaga down to the Binghamton area in order to connect several east-west natural gas pipelines. In order to do this, the pipeline company, which is an affiliate of National Grid among other energy companies, will need the help of homeowners.

A group of activists is calling it the I-81 pipeline, because it runs roughly parallel to the Interstate through Onondaga, Cortland and Broome Counties. The 24-inch pipeline would replace a much smaller one, abandoned by Sun Oil years ago. Millennium would need more space to build the bigger pipeline which is why they need easements from homeowners.

Syracuse attorney Joe Heath says his advice to any of the homeowners who are approached about this is to just say no.

“This is not a lease that terminates," Heath said. "This is a permanent easement, that once it’s signed this company has its rights forever. So what we're urging people is to be very careful, to talk to lawyers who know this problem, and to not sign right away.”

The Stop 81 Pipeline group is holding a series of community meetings to educate homeowners on the issue. Heath says one concern they have is that it would run through one of the most environmentally fragile areas in central New York, the Tully Valley. It’s home to glacial lakes, a sensitive wetland and an area that is geologically unstable.

“Pipelines are very difficult neighbors in any event, and to run them through these very critical and unstable environmental areas takes this risk to a higher level here,” Heath said.

Heath is also concerned about the bigger picture.

"We’re in a crossroads in New York," Heath said. "We can’t continue to burn fossil fuels. It’s not morally responsible to our grandchildren and beyond. And every one of these infrastructure projects that comes along is all about increasing corporate profits, while we tie ourselves more and more to fossil fuels."

Heath believes the pipeline creates more infrastructure that supports fossil fuels, at a time when the state should be deciding to cut back on the use of oil and gas. He also contends the company wants to move it to markets in Europe, where prices for natural gas are much higher.  

"They’re corporate business model is to import gas into England and Europe because they can make six times as much for it," Heath said. "So their interests are not the same as homeowners in central New York. So we are urging people to not sign, to become educated, and see if we can have a better plan for energy development in central New York.”

The anti-pipeline group is holding a series of informational meetings for landowners along the proposed pipeline.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.