Green ‘Gate: Colgate University and Hamilton Township Discuss Natural Gas Utility



Colgate University’s interest in switching to natural gas as a secondary source of heating is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Last month, the Village of Hamilton began to make strides toward bringing natu­ral gas pipelines and energy to Colgate and to the surrounding Hamilton community.

Colgate’s Climate Action Plan, published last fall, cited natural gas as an alternative to burning the fuel oil (Colgate uses number six) in the heating plant. The Climate Action Plan suggests this change by 2014, hinging on its future availability in Hamilton.

The Climate Action Plan document states, “It appears likely that Colgate will have access to natural gas in the near future via an ongoing Vil­lage of Hamilton initiative to bring natural gas to the area.”

The plan suggested the change because, when burnt, natural gas releases fewer greenhouse gases than other fossil fuels. A switch to natural gas, therefore, would greatly reduce Colgate’s carbon foot­print and help the Univer­sity become carbon neutral by 2019, which Colgate has outlined in the recent Climate Action Plan.

The switch to natural gas suggested by the Climate Ac­tion Plan has been met with some opposition and hesita­tion, however, because of the negative environmental impact of its extraction.

On January 10, the Hamil­ton Village Board of Trustees began to discuss the establish­ment of a natural gas utility. The board voted to begin an environmental assessment that is required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act before a new utility can be established.

The natural gas utility would construct a connecting pipeline into Hamilton, New York from one of two major pipelines within a ten-mile radius. The natural gas utility would also handle suppliers, gas customers and operation of the pipeline.

Margaret Miller, the Mayor of Hamilton, was quoted in The Madison County New York News on January 18, 2012 as saying that the natural gas utility is feasible, in part, because of interest expressed by Colgate University (as well as the two other large energy-con­suming institutions in Hamilton, Hamilton Central School and Community Memorial Hospital).

Although abundant in New York, natural gas is also a con­troversial energy source. Natu­ral gas is, for the most part, extracted from shale using hy­draulic fracturing, or fracking, in which companies fracture rock layers with pressurized hydraulic fluids in order to extract petroleum and natural gas products.

However, many people op­pose hydraulic fracturing be­cause of the associated envi­ronmental and health hazards, especially when concerning water contamination.

The board agreed to host a public hearing on Febru­ary 14 at the Hamilton Vil­lage Courthouse to discuss the controversial fuel source. The utility will not be established unless the Hamilton commu­nity votes for the legislation in a referendum that will be held sometime this spring.

Contact Cassidy Holahan at [email protected]