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Renewable Energy Experts Battle NYSEG Pipeline


by Andrew Casler

ITHACA – A group of Tompkins County renewable energy experts say there's no need for a proposed natural gas pipeline between Freeville and Lansing, and they're planning to lobby against the project.

New York State Electric & Gas Corp. is laying plans for a seven-mile natural gas distribution main along West Dryden and Farrell roads. The pipeline would carry natural gas from Freeville to Lansing. The main would tap into an existing interstate pipeline that runs through Freeville.

"Our Ithaca-area natural gas system is already being taxed by existing customers and ongoing development in the area," NYSEG spokesman Clay Ellis said.

NYSEG is obligated to provide service for customers, and the pipeline would supply gas for new developments and homes in the Lansing and Dryden areas, he said.

NYSEG customers could chose geothermal energy or solar power, but they're asking for natural gas, Ellis added.

"Is it wrong that they also have the choice of using natural gas?" he asked.

The renewable energy experts said methane production and distribution contributes to climate change, and that the area's energy needs can be met in a more socially responsible and economically viable way.

The group spoke Friday to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative. The presenters showed information that illustrated how housing and commercial developments with energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy to see higher return on investment.

The group is made up of Sustainable Tompkins President Gay Nicholson, SUNY Cortland physics professor Brice Smith and Solar Tompkins Program Director Melissa Kemp.

This year, Kemp lead a push to double the amount of solar electricity generated in Tompkins County. She sold 2.75 megawatts of residential solar panel systems.

The group aims to take its message to town boards, local development agencies and local developers.

"(The pipeline) sounds small — a little seven-mile distribution line — but it's bigger than that in terms of what its capacity would be and just how much it would deepen our dependency on methane for a fuel supply in Tompkins County," Nicholson said.

Smith offered information on Lansing's planned Village Solars housing development and the expansion of BinOptics, a laser manufacturer. He said the projects could see a better return on investment by improving energy efficiency and installing renewable energy systems, as opposed to using natural gas from the pipeline.

We're no longer having to artificially chose between the dichotomy of environment versus economic development," Smith said.

Ellis said that NYSEG supports renewable energy development. "We think it's important that New York have an adequate supply of power, No. 1, and we also think it's important to further diversify the state's generation mix."

The pipeline's proposed schedule calls for construction to begin in summer 2015, with new facilities in service by late 2015.

The late 2015 in-service date depends on obtaining easements from property owners, Ellis said.

Ithaca Journal 12-16-14