Just how biased are New York Democrats against the energy industry? You didn’t need much further proof after the last few years, when the state decided to declare what essentially amounts to a permanent moratorium on fracking. (The landowners who went broke while they watched their neighbors across the border to the south in Pennsylvania prospering were simply thrilled.) But simply stopping drilling on their own turf wasn’t enough. When a group of energy companies brought forth a proposal to build the new Constitution Pipeline for natural gas transportation, environmentalists were quick to protest and enlist Empire State politicians on their side.

The pipeline is designed to bring natural gas from Pennsylvania a relatively short distance over the border into upstate New York and link to existing natural gas pipelines. The energy is plentiful and local, offering continued low energy prices and reliability while promising numerous construction jobs along the route. Obviously this is something which must be stopped at all costs if you’re a Democrat, so the state recently denied permits for the pipeline to cross various steams along the route in the name of protecting the water supply or something.

Landowners along the route are still anticipating the construction of the project, however, and will profit from having the pipeline traverse their property. Some of them have begun paving the way by clearing out trees (which they can also sell) and other vegetation, getting the pipeline route ready for faster completion. This has apparently infuriated the state’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, who has issued a stern warning to… the pipeline owners. (Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin)

But New York’s attorney general, in a 43-page filing with federal regulators, accuses the pipeline company of jumping the gun on construction, clearing wide swaths before receiving necessary approvals from New York state.

“Evidence provides a reasonable basis to conclude Constitution expressly or tacitly authorized, encouraged and/or condoned the tree and vegetation cutting,” Schneiderman’s complaint states.

“Constitution has a responsibility to ensure that no unapproved activities occur in the right-of-way — regardless of whose idea it was,” said Nick Benson, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, in an email. “This means that even if there were landowners who were cutting and taking other construction activity in the right of way on their own volition, if Constitution had knowledge of these activities, the company had a legal responsibility to take action to stop it.”

This is truly phenomenal. After investigating with local and county administrators, the AG’s office has already learned that Constitution didn’t clear the trees. They didn’t pay anyone else to clear the trees. They didn’t ask that the trees be cleared. The locals decided to make some of the money they can’t earn through leasing their land for fracking by selling some timber and, at the same time, hopefully speed up the pipeline construction process so they can make a few bucks that way as well. In fact, everyone outside of the AG’s office and environmental groups seems to realize that cutting the trees on their own now makes the most sense.

Why cut prematurely? To preserve the quality of felled trees so they can be used as lumber.

Crews employed by pipeline sponsors “are not the most skilled cutters,” said Dennis Valente, Town of Davenport supervisor. “There’s a difference between a stick of firewood and veneer wood.”

Early cutting allows landowners to get top dollar from their trees rather than wait for compensation, which could be far less, from Constitution’s hired contractors. Landowners say they are well within their rights to harvest timber on their own parcels without interference from Schneiderman.

And yet the Attorney General is leveling charges at the pipeline company over it. It was, in his mind, the responsibility of the pipeline owners to anticipate that some landowners might start cutting trees and stop them.

Welcome to New York. In an effort to score points with environmentalists and smooth his own path to higher office, the Attorney General has gone fully off the deep end.

EricSchneiderman