National Fuel and its subsidiary got a court win earlier this week in their effort to build a natural gas pipeline across parts of Allegany, Cattaraugus and Erie counties.
State Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. Furlong, in Buffalo, ruled Tuesday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — not the New York Department of Environmental Conservation — can make the final determination on the Northern Access pipeline, which would bring fracked shale gas from Pennsylvania for export to Canada.
The judge’s ruling was reported Wednesday by the Buffalo News.
The DEC, which has opposed the pipeline project since 2017, first denied a Clean Waters Act certification to cross 180 streams, 27 wetlands and 17 ponds in New York state.
But petitioned by National Fuel and its subsidiary, Empire Pipeline, FERC ruled that DEC had missed a deadline and that the DEC could no longer enforce the Clean Waters Act for the Northern Access Pipeline. When DEC appealed the FERC ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the court said in August that DEC should “more clearly articulate its basis for the denial” of the certificate.
National Fuel asked FERC for a three-year extension of its 24-inch pipeline request. In the fall, National Fuel indicated it was looking at construction in 2022-23. Pennsylvania has already approved the pipeline project.
The pipeline would cross through the southwest corner of Allegany County before crossing into Cattaraugus County. It would cross portions of the towns of Portville, Hinsdale, Ischua, Franklinville, Machias and Yorkshire, following existing rights of way wherever possible.
The gas would be fed into East Coast and Canadian pipelines — the pipeline to Canada would cross under the Niagara River.
Environmental groups, the Seneca Nation of Indians and residents along the proposed Northern Access route have fought against the pipeline.
A court “win” for opponents was an Allegany County couple’s lawsuit against National Fuel over eminent domain for the pipeline route. The late Joseph Schueckler and Theresa Schueckler of Cuba won on an appeal — although National Fuel in turn appealed that state Supreme Court decision.
Other property owners are also challenging eminent domain claims in court in an effort to stop the pipeline.
(Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is email@example.com.)