ST submitted these remarks to the Tompkins County Legislature on November 6, 2014:

It seems that our County has reached an important juncture in balancing our goals for the future. The issue of the Dryden gas pipeline is perhaps a surprising focal point for the conversation we need to have about how to guide ourselves. But its impact is larger than what we may think.

Those of us working on climate and clean energy want to affirm that we share these values regarding development in Tompkins County. We want to see:

  • Access to housing that is affordable over the long haul;
  • Opportunities for meaningful work;
  • Thriving and connected communities;
  • Resilience and self reliance; and
  • Responsible and coordinated development that examines how costs and benefits are distributed over time and in our community.

We understand that advocates for the pipeline are hoping to see a large addition of residential housing and business development in northeast Lansing because they want to expand the tax base in Lansing and satisfy the energy needs of residents and businesses.

But we believe that there are problems with the assumptions they are making about using natural gas to meet those energy needs. Advocates for the pipeline assert that:

  • Methane is cheap;
  • Methane has lower environmental costs ;
  • Affordable alternatives are not available; and
  • Residents along the pipeline corridor will benefit.

We are in the process of examining those assumptions in greater detail, but we suspect that they are false assumptions. We suspect that:

  • Methane prices will inevitably rise due to the build-out of infrastructure to grow demand, export of methane to global markets where the price is much higher, and the declining cost-effectiveness of extracting shale gas in the remaining fields.
  • Methane has equally bad impacts on environment and climate. It is 80X more potent as a greenhouse gas and leakage rates during extraction and transport are twice as bad as thought. And we all know that fracked gas comes with a significant environmental risk to our air and water and the people living near its wells, pipelines, storage depots, and compressor stations.
  • When all the costs are added up, methane is more expensive to society than alternatives like renewably-sourced electricity, heat pumps, efficiency measures, and biomass.
  • These alternatives are available and affordable if full cost accounting done.
  • Pipeline easement is unfair to landowners and increases their risk and liability; hookups and conversion to methane more expensive long-term than alternatives.

We would like to come back next month with the results of our inquiry into these issues and discuss it further with the Legislature.