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gasOn October 15th County Legislator Mike Sigler, representing Lansing on the Legislature, alerted the Lansing Town Board to a letter by County Planning Commissioner Ed Marx that could negatively impact development on and around Warren Road.  Marx wrote a strongly worded letter urging that current natural gas users reduce their use and that the Energy Committee evaluate the feasibility if switching from natural gas to renewable energy sources.

"I believe this memorandum coming out of the Planning Department will be very detrimental to the Town of Lansing," Sigler said.  "I opposed this at the Planning Committee meeting and will continue to do so."

The proposed gas pipeline would bring natural gas to customers from Freeville, along West Dryden and Farrell Roads to the Warren Road area of Lansing.  The pipe would span seven miles, mostly in Dryden, to enhance the gas delivery system that is near capacity for the Ithaca area.  A group of about 20 largely Dryden residents showed up at an informational meeting in Freeville in August to show opposition to the pipeline, while others interested in the development mini-boom along Warren Road came to learn about the project.

Marx's letter acknowledged that there is not enough gas supply in the Warren Road area, but said that building natural gas infrastructure contradicts the Tompkins County's energy goals.

"From what I understand the supply constraint is currently local in nature but the proposed pipeline would provide capacity to allow expansion of natural gas use throughout the urbanized area of the County and beyond well into the future," Marx wrote. "As we work to achieve the County’s stated goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 and a 20% reduction from 2008 levels by 2020 it is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot achieve that goal if we continue to increase fossil fuel use in the County, including use of natural gas."

gasline mapThe proposed project would hook up to the he Dominion Transmission, Inc. (DTI) interstate pipeline in Freeville, north for a short distance along NYS Route 38 along West Dryden and Farrell Roads to the Warren Road area of Lansing, totaling about seven miles of 10" steel pipe.

Shortly after the memo was presented to the Energy Committee Sigler appeared on WHCU radio.

"Here's an area of the county, up by the airport that people have put a lot of money to develop," Sigler told interviewer Lee Rayburn.  "We have Borg Warner and the jail is there.  We've put a lot of money into the roadway and the sewer system.  That area is ready for development and we're ready to have nodal development there.  If we wanted any new development in that area, and there are already projects on the books, we would need more capacity in that area."

Marx wrote that solar, wind, biomass and hydro generation installations in Tompkins County are scalable to the point where widespread adoption will make a significant energy impact.  He urged the committee to "precisely define the area where the gas deficiency exists, identify actions that could reduce demand from current users through efficiency improvements, and evaluate the feasibility of switching to renewable sources for some energy needs currently supplied by natural gas."

"A lot of what we do as planners is weigh the short term benefits versis the long term costs of things," says Deputy Commissioner of Planning Joan Jurkowich.  "We try to establish a balance.  It reflects some of the work we've done over the last several years.  Not just on the comprehensive plan, but the work we've been doing over the last eight years to try to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, lower our greenhouse emissions, move to renewables."

But Lansing's new Planning Consultant Michael Long has a different take on it, saying that when energy is needed it is not uncommon for NYSEG to provide it.  He says that gas is a good, economical alternative to oil, making it desirable to add capacity to development areas.

"I suspect that any time there is development within a community NYSEG will come in and put in additional gas lines," Long says.  "In a rural county area where you have a lot of propane, it seems that natural gas is much safer and much cheaper.  Once it's installed it seems to be a much better solution.  I suspect that any community that can grow its natural gas will be in a much better position."

In August NYSEG Public Affairs Manager Clayton Ellis said that the pipe will be beneficial to homeowners along the West Dryden Road route because it will enable them to hook up, which is free for homes that are within 100 feet of the pipe.  But 'West Dryden Residents Against The Pipeline' said they would not agree to easements required to lay the pipe, fearing damage to their properties, as well as a philosophical opposition to laying more infrastructure for non-renewable energy sources.

Ellis said that the project could be completed before the end of 2015 if the easements are obtained.  But county opposition to the pipeline could delay the project.

Sigler asked constituents to speak up on his Facebook page in support of his opposition to Marx's memorandum.  Earlier this month the County Energy Committee heard six people speak about the proposed pipe.  Among them was Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Tavares who urged the committee to support the project.  Others urged sustainable energy alternatives, while Caroline Councilwoman Irene Weiser recommended that the County develop 'zero GHG growth policies.'

The Planning Department is developing an Energy Roadmap initiative, which Marx said will form the basis for community discussion beginning early next year.  He added that the Legislature will decide on the County's official position.

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