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March 27, 2014

Pipeline would send gas to Amphenol, towns

By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
Cooperstown Crier

---- — SIDNEY — Working with the planners of the Constitution Pipeline, an executive with a local utility company announced Tuesday that the firm — Leatherstocking Gas Company — has ambitious plans to connect not only the Amphenol Aerospace factory to natural gas supplies but several other communities in the region as well.

“We intend to pipe this entire area,” said Michael German, Leatherstocking’s chief executive officer. The company is jointly owned by Corning Natural Gas and Mirabito Holdings.

Leatherstocking’s plans hinge on whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves Constitution’s application to construct a 124-mile pipeline that would send natural gas produced in northeastern Pennsylvania to two existing pipelines in the Schoharie County town of Wright.

Constitution’s project manager, Matt Swift, said his company is providing Leatherstocking with four taps that will supply Leatherstocking and its customers with gas that would flow to the region through the pipeline. The only tap location that has been finalized is the one that will feed gas to the Amphenol plant, both German and Swift said.

There are plans to also provide gas to residents and businesses in Sidney, Bainbridge, Delhi and possibly Franklin and Unadilla, German said.

“We’re going to go where we’re wanted and where they want gas service,” German said when asked if his company would consider piping natural gas into any Otsego County communities that now lack gas service. He noted Oneonta already has gas service available.

He said Leatherstocking already has franchise agreements in 10 municipalities within Delaware, Otsego, Chenango and and Broome counties. In order for development of the distribution system to move forward, the state Public Service Commission must grant certificates of public convenience to Leatherstocking, German said.

The feeder pipeline coming off the Constitution tap to Amphenol will be funded with a $750,000 grant that the Delaware County Industrial Development Agency awarded last month to Leatherstocking. The feeder pipeline would provide gas both to Amphenol’s existing plant in Sidney as well as its new building scheduled to open later this year.

Approximately 1,000 workers are scheduled to begin working in the new plant in June, while Amphenol’s administrative staff will begin occupying the building in May, said Rick Aiken, the general manager for Amphenol Aerospace.

Aiken said Amphenol has occupied its current plant since 1925. The building was initially powered with coal transported from Pennsylvania. If the pipeline project is approved, he said, Pennsylvania will once again become the source of Amphenol’s power, but “it will be carried by the Constitution Pipeline instead of the railroad.”

The plant that is about to open has a 30,000-gallon propane tank sitting behind it, said Aiken, adding, “I am hoping it is very temporary.”

The annual cost saving for Amphenol from switching to natural gas has been estimated at more than $1 million, Amphenol representatives said. That will help put the company in better position to grow and protect the worker payroll it has now, they said.

The pipeline project is facing intense opposition from a grassroots group called Stop the Pipeline, whose members have showered FERC with comments protesting the transmission system and characterizing it as causing far more environmental damage than the company has acknowledged.

The resistance to the project has been particularly acute in Delaware County, where about 70 percent of the landowners whose parcels would be crossed by the pipeline have not signed agreements granting Constitution Pipeline a permanent easement to the properties in question.