New Leb board has mixed views on pipeline plan

NEW LEBANON—This week’s Town Board meeting ended with a member of the audience asking each member of the board present to state whether he supported or opposed the proposed new Kinder Morgan gas pipeline that would pass through New Lebanon and other town in the northern part of the county (See story on Page 1 this week).

Board member Bruce Baldwin was the first to respond, saying, “My radical mind says if you want to line the pockets of a few capitalists,” then build the pipeline. “The lobbyists have not gotten to me yet.”

Board member Dan Evans said, “I don’t want to stop anyone from selling their land,” but he added that the petition from opponents indicated residents oppose the plan.

Board Supervisor Michael Benson said, “I will tell you that first and foremost I respect people’s property rights. Second, I think about gas traveling down our roads and rails as opposed to in pipelines. Third, this is a federal issue. This is not home rule. We don’t have a say.

Mr. Benson also said that the town had not yet heard from Kinder Morgan about the plan.

Board member Chuck Geraldi was the last to respond, saying he had not seen a “bit of evidence” supporting the claim of opponents that the pipeline would lower property values. “I don’t have an opinion about it,” he concluded.

Mr. Benson said that he had reached out to the company through the Columbia County Emergency Management office. “I met with Kinder Morgan representatives—a whole car full of them,” he said. “All I can say I learned in that meeting was that they’re about to significantly ramp up their public outreach.”

Mr. Benson said the Kinder Morgan representatives showed him a PowerPoint presentation about their countywide P.R. campaign and he suggested that they set up their campaign in the Northern part of the County where the new pipeline would be. He said he did not discuss the local opposition to the pipeline with the company.

Later in the meeting, New Lebanon resident Bruce Shenker, who presented the opponents’ concerns about the pipeline to the board last month, said, “They talked to you, but they haven’t talked to the people of the town. What we really want is a public meeting.”

Speaking at a different point in the meeting in his role as the town representative on the Columbia County Environmental Management Council Mr. Shenker reported that the council voted unanimously to communicate to the Board of Supervisors that the proposed pipeline “would create substantial risk” to the community.

A draft has been sent to the Board of Supervisors, although Mr. Benson quickly pointed out that this proposal has only been adopted by the Environmental Management Council, not the Board of Supervisors.

During the public comment segment, Mr. Shenker presented a petition against the proposed pipeline, which had around 150 signatures. According to Mr. Shenker, of the 31 New Lebanon properties though which the pipeline would run, only two property owners would not sign the petition. Seventeen of these property owners did sign; the rest were not at home. Several members of the audience signed the petition as it was being passed to the board.

Also at the September 9 meeting:

  • Mr. Benson discussed the fees New Lebanon pays to the Chatham Rescue Squad. He said the town pays $180,000 to $190,000 annually to receive service from Chatham Rescue, while Chatham, Austerlitz, and Ghent all pay “significantly less” than $100,000. “Our hope is to spread the cost of this around,” said Mr. Benson
  • A series of meetings has been proposed between the Lebanon Valley Speedway and the Lebanon Valley Conservancy, a group that has proposed an ordinance designed to limit noise from the Speedway
  • The board adopted a new Human Resources manual
  • A group representing several New Lebanon-area organizations such as Behold! New Lebanon and Grow the Valley made a presentation to a packed Town Hall before the regular town board meeting began
  • The Recreation Commission has been working to find a location for a Community Center. One proposed location is the basement of the Congregational Church
  • Steve Oberon of the Lebanon Valley Historical Society invited people to attend a celebration of Governor Samuel Tilden’s 200th birthday September 21.

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