BETHLEHEM — The Bethlehem Town Board has voted 4-1 to oppose a 7.3 mile, 16-inch diameter natural gas pipeline that is proposed by National Grid to run from the Town of Bethlehem to the Towns of East and North Greenbush, across Albany and Rensselaer counties.
Bethlehem was not alone in voicing its disapproval as East Greenbush had also already opposed the pipeline back on April 17. First proposed in the spring, the project, officially titled the Pipeline E37 Reliability and Resiliency Project, seeks to improve natural gas access and efficiency throughout the Capital District. National Grid’s Eastern gate, which the Capital District is a part of, was described as “supply-constrained” by the company and the new pipeline ideally would limit future natural gas usage disruptions.
The pipeline would start almost 900 feet north of the Bethlehem Gate Station on River Road in Bethlehem, and head northeast to the Troy Gate Station on Bloomingrove Road in North Greenbush. It would travel under the Hudson River upon leaving Bethlehem. It would be buried at least 36 inches from the ground level in general and at least 60 inches if under roads and bodies of water. If approved, construction is estimated to begin this fall and finish by 2021 or 2022.
Bethlehem Town Board member Dan Coffey had presented a resolution opposing the $70 million project back on Wednesday, June 12, where he said the pipeline “would have absolutely no benefit to the residents of Bethlehem. None of the natural gas would be distributed to Bethlehem residents.” He added that there could be a puncture in the pipeline, bringing up the example of gas explosions at Andover, Massachusetts in October 2018; he noted though that such an incident will not necessarily happen in Bethlehem.
Fellow Town Board member Jim Foster, however, disagreed with Coffey’s proposed resolution, perceiving that natural gas, albeit “not perfect,” is “a bridge fuel that gets us to a more sustainable and cleaner future.” He said that despite general societal assumptions that Republicans do not care about going green, he still does personally care for the environment.
He then asked his other board members what their primary source of heating were in their homes.
Town Supervisor David VanLuven and Town Board member Maureen Cunningham said they use natural gas whereas Coffey and fellow Town Board member Joyce Becker said they use natural gas and have solar panels. To back up his point, Foster said that while he looks forward to the time when the town uses much more green energy, he said that one reason many local residents still use natural gas is that their houses were built with natural gas as part of its infrastructure and that it was likely the best option then.
Foster added that he believed the proposed pipeline would help meet local demands and “allow additional residents and businesses to help get away from less cleaner fuels like fuel oil. … Is it perfect yet? No, it’s not. But it’s a step in the right direction and I think we don’t want to constrain that.”
Cunningham countered by saying she is in the process of changing from natural gas and that she believes “we are in a transition right now to different kinds of energy and we have to be conscious about what kind of future we’re building.” She said that natural gas pipelines are not future-minded and are short-lived, not made to withstand generally at least 40 years down the road.
She connected this with how the pipeline will not sustain Bethlehem in the long term, which she explained was why she chose to support Coffey’s resolution. Coffey said that the pipeline was described to have a 40-year lifetime and is “a 20th-century solution to a 21st-century problem.”
VanLuven said that there is a difference between how existing Bethlehem homes had been built with natural gas as part of their infrastructure back then and how a new and large natural gas pipeline is to be installed to help provide for entire towns in the modern day. He also pointed out that any potential leaking in natural gas infrastructure would be “so severe” that it goes against its benefit of being a cleaner energy source than other less-clean fuels like oil and coal.
VanLuven, Becker, Cunningham and Coffey voted in favor of Coffey’s resolution to oppose the pipeline; Foster voted against it. This resolution would be passed to the state Public Service Commission which ultimately decides on the fate of the pipeline in months to come.
For more information, visit National Grid’s webpage for the project at www.nygasprojects.com/pipeline-e37-reliability-and-resiliency-project.