By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — Thursday’s bright sunshine matched the mood at the ceremonial groundbreaking for a $41 million natural-gas pipeline project in Franklin County.
Past and present legislators, Sen. Betty Little, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey and officials from Enbridge-St. Lawrence Gas, Agri-Mark McCadam Cheese and the North Country Regional Economic Development Council converged in Malone to thank and praise each other for the seven-plus years of teamwork and dedication it took to bring the 48-mile transmission system from the Town of Norfolk in St. Lawrence County to the Village of Chateaugay.
“This is a transformational day for Franklin County,” said Garry Douglas, co-chair of the Economic Development Council and executive director of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.
Douglas said natural gas is an abundant North American product that is environmentally responsible and more affordable than fossil fuels or electricity.
“It’s more efficient, and it’s nearby. We just have to get it where it’s needed,” he said.
James Pratt, vice president of operations at Agri-Mark McCadam, said natural gas will preserve more than 100 existing jobs at the Chateaugay plant and create a foundation for expansion.
“This is great for the community and great for the dairy-farm owners,” he said. “Nobody knows for sure a year from now what the price of oil or gas is going to be, but our best guess is the value of natural gas will save us $1 million a year.”
Jim Ward, assistant general manager of Enbridge-St. Lawrence Gas, thanked all of the government officials who helped convince stakeholders to support the project and push it forward when momentum slowed or stalled.
“I always say I’m amazed at the support this project has for 10 years, no matter who we talked to,” he said. “This is a community celebration. I’ve never seen a public and private partnership and all of the communities involved coming together so we could do this.”
The existing pipeline brings natural gas from Canada into the United States and will cross into Franklin County at the Town of Moira.
Brushton Mayor Don Barney said he has wanted a cheaper alternative for village residents and the North Country for a long time.
“The big deal about this for me is for us to no longer be dependent on foreign oil,” he said. “At least this natural gas is coming from this continent.”
Legislator Guy “Tim” Smith (D-Fort Covington) said he made several trips to Albany in support of the pipeline when he was Franklin County Legislature chairman, and he was thrilled to convince former Gov. David Paterson to get on board.
“We lobbied and got $2.5 million, and we got him up here,” Smith said, referring to Paterson’s visit to Malone to announce the grant award in October 2009.
“I met him at the elevator and said, ‘Come on in,’” he said, laughing.
BOOST TO MANY
In addition to that funding, the county chipped in $1.425 million, Sen. Little secured $2 million, and St. Lawrence County was asked to kick in about $600,000 but has so far not done so.
That fact didn’t escape Legislator Paul Maroun (R-Tupper Lake), who said, “I don’t want to cast a spell, but I’m hopeful our friends to the west of us see how important (the pipeline) is, and we’ll see a little revenue from them.”
Duprey said there were days she didn’t think the project would gain the needed approval.
“We were told we’d never get a letter from the Department of Corrections supporting this project, but we did,” she said. “Every piece along the way helped.”
Little said she would like to see Albany learn from the bi-partisan support shown to get the pipeline project approved and that it is not just a benefit to the northern portion of the county but to all county taxpayers.
She said it will bring business interest, economic development and job growth.
“Now Franklin County will have natural gas and attract businesses from Canada who go to Clinton County and St. Lawrence County,” the senator said.
“Franklin County is open for business. We’re changing and doing great things and moving forward.”
Email Denise A. Raymo: firstname.lastname@example.org