It’s all about engaging the right kind of public participation and Williams has been working on that, launching a series of open house meetings along the route of its proposed 121-mile Constitution Pipeline from northeastern Pennsylvania into the heart of New York State near Albany.

The crowd at the West Windsor, NY, fire house last Wednesday night appeared to be generally cordial and receptive to the pipeline. Attendees circled tables with posters and handouts detailing different aspects of the project, talking to Williams personnel and even a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staffer who were on hand to answer questions.

Williams had 40 of its own staffers mingling with the group and explaining the maps and materials. It’s still early days. The Constitution Pipeline, slated to run from Susquehanna County, PA, through Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie Counties in New York (see Shale Daily, April 27), is only in the pre-filing stage at FERC.

Williams, the 75% owner and builder and operator of the project, is preparing the ground for its full filing, which is expected in January. The other 25% owner is Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., the project’s anchor shipper.

The pipeline will be picking up Marcellus gas in Pennsylvania and possibly at a future date in New York, carrying it to a connection with Tennessee Gas Pipeline and Iroquois Gas Transmission in New York, another of the projects that are gradually pushing out Canadian imports in the Northeast. For Williams, it’s also another step toward a Susquehanna gas supply Hub (see Shale Daily, Feb. 22).

NGI‘s man in the crowd, Jim Willis, editor of Marcellus Drilling News, and a Broome County resident who lives just around the corner from the firehouse, talked to Chris Staffel with Williams, who’s responsible for selecting the locations and logistics for the meet-and-greet sessions. Staffel said the West Windsor meeting was the second in a series, following on an earlier one in Susquehanna County.

“It seemed to me the crowd here was generally cordial and receptive to the pipeline, probably more so than can be expected at the upcoming meetings in Chenango and Delaware counties,” Willis said. Staffel agreed, explaining “Around here they’re used to the drilling industry and pipelines, but in Delaware and Schoharie, not so much.”

Landowners were examining the preferred and alternate routes on survey maps spread out over four eight-foot tables. A Williams employee stood by with a laptop to look up land coordinates and direct people to their property on the maps.

Williams spokesman Chris Stockton said that of the more than 1,200 landowners contacted as either being on the preferred or an alternate route, about 60% have responded positively to the news. About 10% responded they are not interested in allowing the pipeline to cross their land, and the remaining 30% have not yet responded.

When asked “why another pipeline” and “why in this particular area,” Stockton said, “The Marcellus is the new Gulf of Mexico [for natural gas]. All of the existing pipelines in the area are either at or near full capacity now, and production in northeast Pennsylvania, particularly in Susquehanna County, continues to increase. Supplies are outstripping the infrastructure to deliver it to market.”

Stockton said FERC will hold a series of public hearings, called scoping hearings, starting in September. And pipeline construction will be completed in 2014 if all goes according to plan.