Lobbyists push pipeline project

During a public information meeting in January, National Fuel displayed several pictures and maps to help the public get a better idea of what the Liberty Drive dehydration facility in Wheatfield might look like and how it would work. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its approval of National Fuel's $455 million Northern Access 2016 pipeline project on Friday.

Nearly 100 miles of pipeline will be constructed as part of the project, between McKean County, Pennsylvania and Niagara County. In addition, the project will include building or expanding a number of accessory structures, including a gas compressor station on Killian Road in Pendleton and a dehydration facility on Liberty Drive in Wheatfield.

"We continue to make progress working through the various federal, state and local regulatory processes, and this authorization keeps us on track for our recently announced in-service date during the second quarter of our 2018 fiscal year," said said Ronald Kraemer, senior vice president at National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation and president at Empire Pipeline, both subsidiaries of National Fuel Gas Company, in a statement released Saturday morning.

"National Fuel will invest nearly a half billion dollars to construct the facilities necessary to transport this critical source of natural gas to the Northeast U.S. and eastern Canadian markets."

According to the letter granting approval for the project, FERC found that the project will meet a "new demand" and that it will not have any adverse affect the company's existing customers or those of other pipelines. It also found that the impact to nearby landowners and surrounding communities will be "limited."

"Approximately 69 percent of the proposed 96.5-mile mainline pipeline will be co-located with existing pipeline and powerline rights-of-way," the letter stated. "Maximizing the use of these previously disturbed rights-of-way will minimize both the number of landowners from which new right-of-way will need to be acquired and the potential need for reliance on eminent domain."

In July, FERC issued a favorable environmental assessment of the Northern Access Project, claiming that the construction of the new pipeline would not have a significant impact on the environment.

Once finished, the Northern Access Pipeline will transport gas to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline 200 Line, which services the New York state and New England markets, and to the Empire Pipeline system, which services the New York state, Canadian, Northeast and Midwest U.S. markets, according to National Fuel's statement.

The statement also noted that the project is anticipated to have an economic impact of more than $930 million, with approximately $735 million of that taking place in New York. It added that the project will be financed without government subsidies or incentives. Job creation for the project is estimated at 1,680 positions, with 75 percent of them to be located in New York. National fuel plans to work with local labor unions.

Additionally, the statement said the project will increase annual property tax revenues for the four New York counties involved by about $11.8 million.

“FERC's approval of the Northern Access Project is an important next step in our ability to continue to invest in the essential pipeline infrastructure serving New York state and interconnected markets," said Ronald J. Tanski, president and CEO of National Fuel Gas Company. "While the state and nation continue their transition to more renewable energy generation, natural gas will continue to be a critical component of America’s energy supply, economic health and national security"

However, a number of locals may beg to differ with Tanski's sentiments. Since the project was announced in 2015, protestors have been vocal in their opposition to the pipeline, noting concerns of the potential for environmental pollution, explosions or quality of life issues such as noise or light pollution. Several rallies have since been staged in an effort to get their message across.

National Fuel says it has heard the public's concerns and incorporated them into the projects designs. Saturday's statement says changes to the original plan include rerouting pipelines, facility relocation, the use of "state-of-the-art sound and emissions reduction technologies" and aesthetic enhancement.

Protesters plan to continue sending their message at a public hearing set to be held by the state Department of Environmental Conservation on Thursday. The hearing, scheduled for 6 p.m. at Niagara County Community College, will invite the those who may be affected by the pipeline to submit comments related to the approval of necessary water and air permits.

Though FERC is federally regulated, the DEC is a New York operation, and at Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State Address last month, protestors tried to reach out, urging him to step in and ensure that the permits get denied.

"We want Gov. Cuomo to come out and say that he doesn’t want this pipeline in New York, that it’s impacting 180 streams and 270 wetlands on it’s way up from Pennsylvania,” said Diana Strablow, of the Sierra Club Niagara Group, at a protest outside of Cuomo's address at the University at Buffalo. "Climate change is real, it’s serious and we need to make the transition to renewable."