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1/11/16 Letter to Governor Cuomo Regarding Constitution Pipeline Company's Request to FERC for authorization to begin "tree-felling activities"

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
The Capitol
Albany, NY 12224


Please accept my very best wishes for the upcoming year.

I trust you were informed that I wrote you on December 17, 2015 to forward a coalition letter which respectfully requests that you require your Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to deny all pending Section 401 Water Quality Certification applications for natural gas pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects proposed in New York. I received an acknowledgement for my communication.

The coalition letter documents a total of 114 major pipeline fires, explosions, ruptures and toxic discharges using your Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) own regulatory data. Given that many of those pipeline hazards caused massive water quality violations that reportedly were never cleaned up in compliance with environmental protection standards, DEC must not grant the requested Section 401 Water Quality Certifications because the agency clearly cannot fulfill the applicable requirements of the Clean Water Act:

"In accordance with Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, applicants for a Federal license or permit for activities (including but not limited to the construction or operation of facilities that may result in any discharge into waters of the United States) are required to apply for and obtain a Water Quality Certification from DEC indicating that the proposed activity will not violate water quality standards (emphasis added)."

There are now 762 signatories to the above-referenced coalition letter. Those signatories include elected government officials, environmental and civic groups, community and religious leaders, business owners, artists, educators, scientists, academic researchers, farmers, physicians, health care professionals, and citizens from all over New York as well as the rest of the nation.

See: Coalition Letter Which Requests That Governor Cuomo Deny All Section 401 Water Quality Certification Applications

I also write to alert you that the Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC reportedly sent a letter, dated January 8, 2016, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to request authorization by January 15, 2016 to commence "tree-felling activities" required to construct its proposed pipeline. I am sure you know about this critical development, but I want to make sure that it receives your full and immediate attention.

See: 1_Constitution_Request_for_NTP_Tree_Felling_2016-0108.PDF

With all respect, I believe the Constitution Pipeline Company's action represents an affront to your authority in a critical regulatory matter. As a matter of public policy principle as well as regulatory protocol, your administration must not tolerate the impunity of this corporation to try to "jump the gun" by felling trees before the State of New York resolves the pending Section 401 Water Quality Certification application required for the proposed pipeline to be built.

Due to the substantive reasons specified in the coalition letter as well as the applicant's procedural impunity, I reiterate the request that you require your DEC to DENY the Section 401 Water Quality Certification application for the proposed Constitution Pipeline.

It would be a grave error if your administration permits the Constitution Pipeline Company to conduct an "end run" around New York's environmental regulatory authority. In the event that the applicant's request receives a favorable reply from FERC, legal action would be appropriate to block the proposed "tree-felling activities" in order to preserve the rights of New Yorkers, respect for your high office, as well as the integrity of DEC's regulatory proceedings.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can clarify any of the concerns addressed herein.

Thank you for your consideration and your public service.

Very truly yours,

Walter L. T. Hang