Constitution Pipeline: Promise or Disaster?

By Erika Mahoney

October 24, 2012 Updated Oct 25, 2012 at 5:10 PM EDT

Oneonta, NY (WBNG Binghamton) They stood on either side of the street, divided by beliefs, but connected by passion.

It was an emotional scene outside the Foothills Theater in Oneonta, just before a public hearing on the proposed Constitution Pipeline, a joint project of Cabot Oil and Gas and Williams Energy.

The meeting, held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, provided a platform for people to express their concerns and support for the pipeline.

And they were there, sharing their opinions long before the meeting commenced.

Behind colorful signs, and loud chanting, protesters showed up in the hundreds.

"As you can see by the crowd, this is truly a grassroots movement," said Robert Nied of "Stop the Pipeline". "This is a multiple county movement of people who have gotten together because they are concerned about the Constitution Pipeline because they see it as what it is, which is the foundation, the infrastructure for hydraulic fracturing."

A smaller crowd on the other side of the street wore "I Support the Constitution Pipeline" stickers. They argued the claim about any connection to hydrofracking is invalid.

"They're trying to turn this into a discussion about fracking and that's not what this is about," said Tom Armao of "Citizen Voices". "This is a meeting regarding a pipeline approval to run through our area, taking natural gas that was extracted from Pennsylvania and hooking it up to a pipeline in Schoharie to get it to New York City and Boston. So it really has nothing to do with fracking and they are trying to tie the two together."

If approved, the pipeline would span 121 miles from Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania to Schoharie County in New York, by way of Binghamton and other communities.

Anne Marie Garti, one of the founders of the "Stop the Pipeline" group, said she doesn't want to see the land in her home state destroyed.

"It will transform this whole stretch of New York state, which is really quite pristine at this point," said Garti. "The spirit is here because people want to keep it that way."

Others, like former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Mike Zagata, believe the environmental impact will be trivial.

"The pipeline doesn't necessarily degrade the value of your property, or cause you not to have insurance," said Zagata. "There are tens of thousands of pipelines in this country."

And that is something protesters said they don't like to hear.

"There's a whole series of problems of how these pipelines get rubber stamped and pushed through," said Wes Gillingham, of Catskill Mountain Keeper.

But now, opponents believe they have a chance to put an end to a pipeline.

"I think that stopping pipelines historically has been very difficult, but I think if there is an opportunity to do it, I think it's this one, the Constitution, because it's so ill-timed, it's so ill-planned, and there is so much grassroots opposition to this," said Nied.

The pipeline is currently in early review stages with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

A Constitution Pipeline spokesperson said the goal is to have a formal application complete by early 2013.