New York state has denied a permit to National Fuel Gas to build the Northern Access Pipeline, citing concerns about impacts on wetlands, streams, fish and wildlife habitat along the route.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced its decision Saturday. A letter dated Friday, April 7, was sent to National Fuel Gas informing the company of the decision, which calls into question the entire $455 million project to build a pipeline from Sergeant Township in southern McKean County, Pa., up into Erie County of New York to transport hydraulically fractured natural gas.

"After an in-depth review of the proposed Northern Access Pipeline project and following three public hearings and the consideration of over 5,700 comments, DEC has denied the permit due to the project's failure to avoid adverse impacts to wetlands, streams, and fish and other wildlife habitat," the DEC said in a statement Saturday. "We are confident that this decision supports our state’s strict water quality standards that all New Yorkers depend on.”

Supporters and opponents of the proposed Northern Access Pipeline waited Friday for word from the state Department of Environmental Conservation on the project’s wetlands and air permits.

Friday was the deadline for the DEC to approve or disapprove the permit to cross hundreds of streams, ponds and wetlands over the 96-mile pipeline route in New York state.

A spokeswoman for National Fuel, Karen Merkel, said Saturday that the company would have no comment at this time. She said a news release would be forthcoming on Monday.

National Fuel has extensive natural gas leases in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale gas fields and needs new pipeline and compressor facilities to move the gas to markets.

The proposed pipeline route runs from McKean County in Pennsylvania, under the Allegheny River and into New York’s Allegany County near Ceres. The pipeline route enters Cattaraugus County in the Wolf Run Road area of the town of Portville and goes to a new compressor station in Hinsdale.

From there it was to go north through the towns of Ischua, Franklinville, Machias and Yorkshire, crossing Cattaraugus Creek between Creek and McKinstry roads in Yorkshire. The route then crosses Erie and Niagara counties and can be used in Western New York, shipped to eastern or midwestern markets or into Canada.

The company has stated that the project would create 1,000 to 1,200 jobs.

Emilia Oprea of Sardinia in Erie County, a landowner whose property is crossed by the pipeline route, is the founder of Wyoming, Erie and Cattaraugus Communities Act on the Pipeline (WECAP).

In opposing the project, Oprea said the pipeline would cross 180 streams, 270 wetlands and 17 ponds. National Fuel proposed horizontal drilling for only six of the streams. The rest would be dry open-cut construction, which involves trenching the pipeline across the stream, burying it at least 6 feet below the bottom of the stream.

National Fuel did not plan to use horizontal drilling techniques on either Cattaraugus Creek or Ischua Creek, Oprea said.

Oprea led a WECAP rally in Albany on Feb. 7, demonstrating outside the Capitol and later at DEC headquarters.

DEC officials held three public hearings in February on the pipeline proposal, including one at St. Bonaventure University. More than 200 people — opponents and those favoring the pipeline — attended the Feb. 7 St. Bonaventure hearing.

Speakers were evenly split among proponents, including many from trade unions who would work on the pipeline, and opponents.

Oprea had expressed concern this week that after getting a favorable ruling on the pipeline route from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), National Fuel Gas began eminent domain proceedings from landowners who had not accepted leases offered over the past year.

The FERC ruling granting eminent domain status for unwilling landowners came before the state DEC issued its decision on the wetlands permit application.

National Fuel Gas sought an order from FERC that it could construct the pipeline without the DEC wetlands permit, Oprea said.

Oprea said, “If we win this thing, there’s going to be a big (landowners’) party.”

Once completed, the Northern Access Project would deliver natural gas to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline 200 Line, serving New York state and New England markets, and to Empire’s pipeline system, providing access to New York state, Canadian, Northeast and Midwest U.S. markets.

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