ST. BONAVENTURE — Speakers for and against the $455 million Northern Access Pipeline Project spoke Tuesday at a state hearing on water and air quality permits.
Speakers from companies that build pipelines, and labor representatives of Operating Engineers and Teamsters urged quick approval of the project’s permits by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The standing-room-only legislative hearing in Doyle Hall at St. Bonaventure University was attended by nearly 250 people.
Several individuals and representatives of groups opposed to the 97-mile pipeline attended, many of whom live in areas that the Marcellus shale gas line will run through, including McKean County in Pennsylvania, part of Allegany County and Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara counties.
Managers and engineers of National Fuel Gas Supply Corp., the pipeline applicant, attended and spoke of the company’s commitment to safety and environmental safeguards.
On Friday, National Fuel Gas got approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the pipeline — contingent on approval by the DEC of freshwater wetlands permits, stream disturbance permits, water quality certification, and air quality permits.
A Franklinville resident expressed concerns over water quality, including drinking water in communities along the pipeline, and what is seen as a lack of benefits to Western New York communities.
Barry Miller of Hinsdale said he believed the product from the pipeline “will not be used here, but shipped overseas.”
Kathy McGoldrick, of Ellicottville, asked for an extension in the time for public comment. Currently the comments will be received by DEC through Feb. 24.
She said the National Fuel Gas environmental studies make no mention of American bald eagles in the project area, but there are breeding pairs of eagles who live and feed along Cattaraugus Creek.
McGoldrick also questioned the need for the 24-inch pipeline, which would go through the Cattaraugus Creek sole source aquifer, as well as cross 192 streams, including 19 protected streams. Most stream will be crossed using a dry crossing method, with horizontal drilling being used in only four crossings.
Kevin Strahan, a business representative for pipefitters, said the pipeline would put 1,700 people to work. The people who work on these pipelines are experienced, he said, adding he believes there will be zero negative impact on streams.
A National Fuel Gas production engineer said the company would pay an additional $11.5 million a year in property taxes to communities along the path of the pipeline, and a one-time payment of $6.5 million in sales taxes.
Charles P. Joyce, president of Otis Eastern Service LLC in Wellsville, an energy pipeline company, told the hearing he’d been in the business for 45 years without any environmental incidents or protests.
Barbara Dyscant of Hinsdale, said the 24-inch pipeline “will rip through our property, our homes and our farms.” Her daughter, Nadine, added, “There’s no way this pipeline should be able to trample so many places.”
One speaker who said he was a 33-year veteran at NFG, said the company is committed to safety and environmental compliance.
“One thing that has not changed is our approach to projects,” he said.
Corey Wiktor, executive director of the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency, said that as an economic development issue, he endorsed the Northern Access Pipeline Project. More than $50 million of the pipeline will be in Cattaraugus County.
Several representatives of the Concerned Citizens of Allegany County spoke out against the pipeline, which will cross about 10 miles of Allegany County.
Alice Taylor of Belfast urged the DEC to consider the radon and other radioactive isotopes in the Marcellus shale gas, and how it might spread along the pipeline.
Angelo Fasso of Irving, who represents Operating Engineers Local 17, said National Fuel Gas had a very good environmental and safety record. “Construction workers spend money where they work,” he added.
TWO SENECA NATION members spoke for and against the pipeline. Seneca President Todd Gates has previously expressed concerns over the pipeline.
A Seneca resident from the Allegany Territory said the Senecas had a responsibility to protect the Earth. It was good both sides were talking, he said. Many Senecas are opposed to pipelines, he said.
“What condition will we leave the Earth in the future?” he added.
Elliott Jimerson, who lives on the Cattaraugus Territory and is a business manager for Operating Engineers Local 17, voiced his support for the pipeline. National Fuel Gas, he said is committed to operating safely.
Another member of Concerned Citizen of Allegany County, Karen Ash of Angelica, said the FERC approval should not substitute for a State Environmental Quality Review Act study.
“This project starts in Pennsylvania and ends in Canada,” she said.
Still another Allegany County resident said the Marcellus shale gas was part of an energy movement away from renewable and sustainable sources.
“The pipeline is not needed for any purpose other than greed,” she added.
Lia Oprea of Sardinia in Erie County, said the FERC ruling meant landowners could face eminent domain proceedings, She founded Wyoming, Erie and Cattaraugus Communities Act on the Pipeline, or WECAP.
Written comments on the pipeline may be sent to project manager Michael Higgins by email at NFGNA2016Project@dec.ny.gov, or to his office at Major Projects Management, Division of Environmental Permits, 625 Broadway, 4th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-1750.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)