Pipeline protesters take fight to Albany

Photo by Colleen McKinney/contributedA protestor takes part in Monday's rally in front of DEC headquarters in Albany. 

Critics of the Northern Access Pipeline have to get the state of New York to deny water and air quality permits if they want to halt the project. This week, they took their fight to Albany in a last attempt to make their voices heard. 

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has less than two weeks to either approve or deny the permits. Pipeline opponents assembled at noon on Monday in front of DEC headquarters to continue their protest of the controversial $455 million National Fuel project. 

"We’re asking Governor Cuomo and the DEC to do the right thing and deny the water quality certificate and air permits for this destructive project," said Diana Strablow of the Sierra Club Niagara Group. "Not only do we have a moral obligation to stop enabling fracking in Pennsylvania, we must protect our finite supply of fresh water.”

After their gathering at the DEC capital, the protestors took their message to the state Capital Building, where they attempted to inform onlookers about the potential dangers the pipeline could pose to those living near it. They also delivered copies of a letter that was signed by more than 140 organizations, businesses and faith communities that want to see the DEC and Gov. Andrew Cuomo deny the permits the project needs to break ground. 

Though it's still waiting on state approval, the project has received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If the state approves the permits, National Fuel will construct nearly 100 miles of pipeline between northwestern Pennsylvania and Niagara County, as well as a gas compressor station in Pendleton and a dehydration facility in Wheatfield. Another compressor station in Elma would be expanded. 

“Compressor stations are what push gas through these high-pressure pipelines,” said Joseph Gibson, Western New York resident and organizer with the Clean Air Council. “They’re also extremely toxic. They constantly emit carcinogenic VOCs (volatile organic compounds), carbon monoxide, smog-forming gases, and other pollutants. You don’t want your family living near these pipelines, and especially not near these facilities.”

In addition to fears regarding emissions, safety and potential leaks, protesters also emphasize the 192 stream and 270 wetlands that the pipeline would cross. A press release issued Monday after the rally noted that the DEC denied water permits for the Constitution Pipeline, because they had determined the pipeline would have been a safety risk. 

“Western New York deserves the same protection for our water, air and residents,” Strablow said. “There should be no sacrifice zones." The press release went on to say that the Northern Access Pipeline would contradict the comments made by Gov. Cuomo stressing the importance of clean energy. 

The DEC has until April 7 to make a decision.

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