Town leaders hope a public information session will answer lingering questions about a pipeline proposed to run through Saugerties along the Thruway right-of-way.
“Pilgrim Pipeline is a topic on everyone’s mind the last nine months to a year,” Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel said. “There have been requests from many townspeople that we do a resolution against it…We have not done that yet. We wanted to meet with the pipeline people first to arrange a public informational meeting.”
Pilgrim proposes a pipeline along the Thruway corridor to bring crude oil from the Port of Albany to refineries in Linden, N.J. Refined petroleum products would be transported through a parallel pipeline back to the Port of Albany. The type of oil, called Bakken crude because it’s from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota, has been the subject of protest because it is more volatile than other types of oil so the danger of environmental problems or explosion is greater.
The Ulster County Legislature, Rosendale, New Paltz, Woodstock, Rochester, Marbletown, Rhinebeck and 21 New Jersey towns already passed resolutions opposing the pipeline. The group Citizens Against Pilgrim Pipeline have urged Saugerties to follow suit.
Bakken crude has been blamed for several major rail tanker explosions, most recently in West Virginia, raising concerns from municipalities about the lack of resources to respond to an explosion or pipeline rupture.
Helsmoortel and councilmen Jim Bruno and Bill Schirmer met recently with two Pilgrim Pipeline representatives.
“The majority of the questions we asked were answered,” said Helsmoortel. “Answers they did not have they will get to us very shortly.” He added that some of the questions asked were submitted by town residents and a representative from Citizens Against Pilgrim Pipeline also attended the meeting.
“We will be having a public informational meeting, probably a month and a half approximately from now,” said Helsmoortel.
“I think what came out of it today is it’s very important that we open the line of communication with these people, which was not available before and obviously was causing some concern for us,” Schirmer said.
Schirmer said the project was in an early stage and the map had changed several times. He said it was likely the final path will pass through Saugerties entirely on the Thruway right-of-way, eliminating the need to go through private land, which is more controversial.
Schirmer stressed the importance of keeping the line of communication open with pipeline officials and not jumping to immediately pass a resolution against the plan.
“If we simply were to flat-out reject this at this point, we could lose the ability that we have to communicate with them,” he said.
Helsmoortel said he expressed displeasure with the way a survey crew was treating residents, intimidating them and saying the pipeline had eminent domain power to take land.
“They assured us that company was let go by them because of that reason,” he said. “It still didn’t make it right. We expressed to them also that we were quite upset they did not come to us first. We found out about it through residents’ concerns.”