by Susan Mikula Campbell
Wheatfield Councilman Larry Helwig is worried that residents might not be fully informed about proposed changes in the Empire pipeline in the town.
Helwig represented the town last month at a public information meeting on the matter and came back concerned that full details of changes were not yet available and that it appeared not all residents affected had been notified of the meeting.
National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. and Empire Pipeline Inc., both wholly owned subsidiaries of National Fuel Gas Co., have initiated a federal regulatory review process for the construction of the Northern Access 2016 Project.
The project will transport regionally produced supplies of natural gas into the interstate natural gas pipeline system and will provide reliable supplies of energy to the northeastern U.S. and Canada.
As part of the project, approximately 4 miles of existing 16-inch pipeline with 24-inch pipeline in the towns of Wheatfield and Pendleton will be replaced; an approximately 22,000 horsepower compressor station will be constructed in the Town of Pendleton, and a new natural gas dehydration facility will be constructed in Wheatfield.
The pipeline meanders through the town, primarily in non-residential areas. However, in the area of Knottingwood and Concord drives, off Shawnee Road, in a few places where a "lift and lay" pipe replacement is planned, "this high pressure gas line is actually on their property," Helwig said, noting that a contractor or someone digging in the area without a dig safely report could cause an explosion.
Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe said Knottingwood previously had a problem with the smaller, existing pipeline about a year and a half ago.
"Early on a Sunday morning, there was a loud noise followed by a sound like a jet engine. Adams Fire Co. came and found natural gas leaking from a high pressure line where a connection blew out," Cliffe said. "The firemen knocked on doors and evacuated homes on Knottingwood, and later along more streets in the subdivision. National Fuel came in 15 minutes or so and immediately called for help. They hit a shutoff, but it took an hour or so to clean all the gas out of the line and make the area safe. We got lucky that the gas never found a source of ignition, and that there was enough wind for the gas to disperse."
Helwig said the new natural gas dehydration facility is needed to take water out of the gas, because Canadian restrictions differ from the U.S. It will be located in an empty field south of the Inducon Corporate Park and Niagara Road.
"They didn't have all the particulars of the size of the structure and what it would look like," he said.
Helwig learned the dehydrator actually makes noise and would include a 35-foot tower in the field, right in line with the airport takeoff and landing path. Residents on Niagara, Schultz and Stoelting roads would be able to see the tower.
At the meeting, a National Fuel representative pointed out that there are trees in the area taller than the proposed tower.
A resident at the meeting commented that if a plane hit a tree, the result would likely be different than hitting than hitting the tower, opening the gas line and causing an explosion.
Helwig noted that more public information meetings are planned by National Fuel, but dates have yet to be selected.
More information about landowner rights and ways to become involved in this process can be found on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's website: www.ferc.gov/for-citizens/get-involved.asp. Questions about the project can be directed to National Fuel at 1-800-634-5440, ext. 7861.