- By Dan Veaner
"The Company continues to receive requests for incremental natural gas services from both new and existing customers in its Ithaca franchise area," Marini writes. "Due to current pressures on the distribution system on cold weather days and design-day predicted pressures in the Lansing area, NYSEG cannot provide the requested incremental natural gas service at this time. The area where NYSEG cannot provide incremental service is in the Town of Lansing as bounded by the lake on the west and NYS Route 13 on the south."
Lansing officials have supported the project since it was proposed in 2014. In August of that year NYSEG held a public meeting at the Freeville Fire Station to explain the project and why it was necessary. The Lansing and Dryden Supervisors were among officials who attended the presentation. But a large group of protesters also showed up, demanding answers to concerns about the danger of such a pipeline to their properties along West Dryden Road, as well as other consequences such as the impact on homeowner insurance, and their opposition to the use of eminent domain to obtain the required easements.
"We believe that we could use eminent domain on this project, but that would be an absolute last resort just like it is on all of our gas and electric projects," NYSEG Public Affairs Manager Clayton Ellis said at the 2014 presentation. "We want to work with the property owners and get the easements we need to build the project."
Marini says that the company has only obtained about half of the 100 easements it needs to proceed with construction. The project would bring natural gas from Dominion Transmission's Freeville Gate Station along West Dryden Road to the Town of Lansing. Recent development along the Warren Road area has increased demand for natural gas, although that is not the only part of the town that cannot obtain new natural gas service. The project would include upgrades to the Freeville facility, and a 7 mile 10" distribution main along West Dryden Road, which could be used to provide gas service to residences in Dryden, as well as to Lansing. A new regulator station at Warren Road would connect to NYSEG's existing distribution system in Lansing.
Lansing Supervisor Ed LaVigne says that the delivery pipeline is vital to Lansing as it struggles with the recent PSC decision not to approve a plan to repower the Cayuga Power Plant, Lansing's largest taxpayer. While LaVigne says the impact will be minimal on Town finances, the potential annual $1.3 million loss to the school system could be disastrous to property taxpayers.
"One of the reasons why it's so critical that we get this West Dryden pipeline in is because that is where the big growth is in Lansing," he says. "It's really easy for other municipalities to say things when they don't have a direct result on their residents. It's unfortunate. But this pipeline will help Lansing a tremendous amount. It's important we get this thing through, because the businesses are there."
The opposition was bolstered last October when Tompkins County Planning Commissioner Ed Marx wrote a strongly worded letter opposing the pipeline and urging that current natural gas users reduce their use. He recommended that the County Energy Committee evaluate the feasibility of switching from natural gas to renewable energy sources.
At that time County Legislator Mike Sigler said he opposed the memorandum, saying that it was "very detrimental to Lansing." Officials say that scenario has come to pass, with delays in getting easements leading to NYSEG's inability to accept new service applications. Marini says the company still wants to provide natural gas to the area, and is exploring options, including eminent domain.
"NYSEG did consider other reinforcement options prior to this project and is currently re-evaluating based on the possible need for condemnations along West Dryden Road," Marini wrote. "NYSEG will continue to consider all available options in an effort to accommodate future service requests."