The Rosendale Town Board voted last week to send a letter to the two designated co-lead agencies on the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) of the Pilgrim Pipeline project, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York Thruway Authority (NYTA), urging them to guarantee ample opportunities for “meaningful public and municipal participation” during the scoping phase of the review process. The request was drafted by Rosendale councilwoman Jen Metzger and will be shared with other municipalities in the pipeline’s proposed path, thereby continuing Rosendale’s track record of taking a lead “watchdog” role on the project.
“Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, LLC, has proposed to construct two pipelines carrying crude oil and refined petroleum products between Albany, New York and Linden, New Jersey, cutting through the Town of Rosendale and 31 other towns, cities and villages in the Hudson Valley, Catskill Region and Capital District Area,” notes the letter. Quoting acting DEC deputy commissioner Thomas Berkman’s reference to the project’s “potential for significant adverse environmental impacts,” the document states, “the very large number of affected communities demands a scoping process that can accommodate their effective participation to identify issues of local and regional concern.”
A thorough scoping process, according to the letter, “will require time-consuming research by municipalities and the public to analyze the proposal and identify potential impacts on local land, water and air resources, cultural, historic and community resources and economic development…broad public input in the SEQR process is vital, given the millions of people potentially impacted by this project.”
Metzger argued that it is vital to ensure community participation at an early stage of the process, when the parameters of the review are still being established, lest vital data be potentially disqualified from consideration. “If an issue arises, and if it’s not included in the scoping document, it will not be included” in the SEQR review, she warned.
Specifically, the letter calls for the co-lead agencies to “provide a minimum 90-day public comment period following the release of a Draft Scoping Document…that public information sessions and hearings be held in every county in the pipeline pathway, and at least one meeting along the crude-by-rail route that would serve the pipelines; and…make an extraordinary effort to maximize public engagement regarding the scoping process, to make all the meetings and comment deadlines widely known and to help the public understand the significance of their opportunity to participate in the scoping process.”
The Town Board voted unanimously to authorize sending copies of the resolution to DEC commissioner Basil Seggos, NYTA acting executive director Bill Finch and governor Andrew Cuomo.