Residents still concerned as National Fuel seeks FERC approval
By Lauren Zaepfel
National Fuel's plans for Wheatfield's dehydrator are on hold due to company cutbacks from low natural gas prices, but residents are not backing down.
In a press release from National Fuel Gas Feb. 4, the company stated the Northern Access Project will be postponed from late 2016 to Nov. 2017.
At Monday's Wheatfield Town Board meeting, Wheatfield Action team member Jennifer Wozniak said, "I know that National Fuel has said that they're delaying their project for the dehydrator on Liberty Drive and the compressor (in Pendleton), but I just wanted to state, publicly, that I want to keep working on this issue and I don't want it to go on the back-burner. Because, although they're saying they're delaying it two years, they're delaying the in-service state of which the gas is actually going to be flowing through the pipeline. So are they going to stop construction, are they going to delay construction? ... I don't know."
It was also stated in the press release, "National Fuel will continue to pursue timely authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct the project to meet the schedule and will preserve the option to accelerate construction as market and regulatory conditions and resource availability might allow."
During Monday's meeting, Wheatfield Deputy Supervisor Larry L. Helwig said National Fuel was initially looking for approval on Feb. 27. "Now they're looking for approval on May 1. So they want to get this project approved. ... They want their approval in the next two months," he said.
Helwig brought up several points he had in response to National Fuel's letter that he said still need to be addressed. Many involved emissions and possible harm to the community.
Residents have been concerned about the possible spread of harmful emissions coming from the dehydrator and being released into the atmosphere.
National Fuel's letter stated, "Gas entering the proposed Wheatfield dehydration facility will be processed and dehydrated upstream, which reduces the already trace levels of pollutants possible in natural gas. The vent stream generated by the natural gas dehydration process at the Wheatfield dehydration facility will consist of water vapor and trace levels of pollutants, removed from the natural gas stream. This stream will be routed to a thermal oxidizer with a destruction efficiency of at least 99 percent that will significantly reduce emissions prior to venting to atmosphere. Based on the facility's low anticipated potential-to-emit emissions, due to the pipeline quality natural gas and applicable regulatory requirements for the proposed Wheatfield dehydration facility, emissions testing is not required.
Later in the letter, National Fuel said it is "committed to complying with applicable Federal Clean Air Act and New York state air quality and emissions-related regulatory requirements at the Wheatfield dehydration facility. As part of the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation air permitting process, the NYSDEC will review anticipated emissions from the proposed Wheatfield dehydration facility to ensure that the proposed facility will not adversely impact human health or the environment."
In an email Monday afternoon, Helwig said, "The residents are concerned about any level of benzene emissions, but National Fuel does not even mention benzene here."
Residents have also requested National Fuel consider opting for a desiccant dehydrator, which would not release harmful emissions.
National Fuel said, "Triethylene glycol dehydration is the proven technology in the natural gas industry for reliable high volume dehydration of natural gas. Desiccant systems are better suited for low-volume production gas streams or instrumentation and plant utility service."
Helwig said, "They state that the desiccant systems are better suited for low-volume production. National Fuel estimates that this facility will only need to be operated two days a year. This sounds like low volume to me."
Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe asked if the board still has time to put out a letter to FERC with the remaining questions of concern.
Helwig said there is still time to submit a letter, because FERC continues to take public comments online. "Wheatfield Action Group, the Town Board, letters to our congressmen and senators - that still has to go on because they don't have approval yet," he said.
Wozniak said, "I definitely want to keep moving forward in a formalized letter in response to them, and I definitely want to keep this up in the forefront so that we can continue to keep this in the public eye. I'm hoping that's all something we can all work on."
Cliffe said, "From my perspective, it's probably a good idea that we do put together a letter between now and the next board meeting to vote on, and actually send our board's comments officially to FERC."
More information, including additional responses from National Fuel, is available at http://wheatfield.ny.us/.
Parking modification approved for Aldi store
The board approved the requested modification of parking requirements for an Aldi facility in Wheatfield after hearing a presentation from ADP Engineering and Architecture member/partner Christopher V. Kambar, P.E.
"The 179 spaces that are required were a lot more than (Aldi) is used to, and they would not like to put those in," Kambar said. "They're normally comfortable with 75 to 80 parking spaces. What we're proposing is 98 parking spaces, which is well below the requirement of 179. However, it is well above what Aldi's requires. We hope that it's a happy medium."
Councilman Arthur Gerbec asked, "In the event Aldi goes out of business, and it closes, and all the land is taken up, how do we ask the new business to go in there, buy it and be compliant with their work?"
Cliffe said the new business would have to go through the Planning Board process and, "depending on the nature of the business they intend to own there, that's what determines the number of parking spaces. The problem with parking is that, especially retail, it gets crazy busy in certain days out of the year, especially near Christmas.
"You'll notice that every parking space in the Factory Outlet Mall is filled and everything around it is filled. This Aldi on the Boulevard isn't that type of a business. They don't need that number of spaces and that's what they made clear."
"It's a variation as opposed to a variance," Wheatfield Town Attorney Matthew E. Brooks said. "The variance would continue forever no matter who's there. This variation is limited specifically to Aldi, as long as they're there, and it also says it's under periodic review, so that if, for whatever reason, they're extremely busy and the parking is inadequate, they would be required to put in what's necessary."
Proposal accepted for Lemke Road and Errick Road bridge/culvert replacement project
The board accepted the proposal of GHD Consulting Services Inc. for professional engineering services for the Lemke Road and Errick Road Bridge/Culvert Replacement Project in the amount of $32,000. The proposal was the lowest cost of two received.
"The Lemke Road bridge structure is collapsing in. The Errick economy bridge is partially a pipe starting to rust through," Cliffe said via email Tuesday. "The Lemke bridge will allow more water to go through, and will upgrade safety for residents and travelers. We hope we can get the work done while kids are out of school. Hopefully, this year."
Wheatfield library discussed; surveys due March 1
Residents discussed whether Wheatfield should have its own library, (estimated to cost around $2.2 million to build and $360,000 to operate annually) versus continuing to pay other municipalities (North Tonawanda and Sanborn) to use their facilities.
Wheatfield resident Sharon Downie also asked, "Why do we pay so much to the North Tonawanda Library when they pay $2,000 a year compared to our $170,000?"
Cliffe said during negotiations it was discussed "We use 20 percent of the materials that are taken out of the library, we use 20 percent of their services, and they wanted to approach 20 percent on the cost. We are nowhere near 20 percent: we are closer to 10 percent - that's why we're figuring in the next round of negotiation they're going to be pushing for at least the 20 percent."
He added, "They demanded it. They wanted it immediately. We simply didn't have any money at that time and we decided to make an offer to do it over a period of time and that's where we are. We're at roughly 10 percent."
Wheatfield residents are encouraged to submit the Wheatfield Town Center Focus Group library survey by March 1 to contribute their input.
The survey is available online at http://wheatfield.ny.us/313/Wheatfield-Library-Survey.
Additional copies are available at the town's Recreation Office, Youth Center and Community Center or by contacting the clerk's office at 716-694-6441.
Highway Superintendent Paul Siegmann said residents have asked why his workers have been trimming branches around residential areas.
"What we're doing mostly is we're trying to trim branches that hit our trucks when we're plowing," he said. "(Also), if there's too much hanging over the road, it keeps the roads from drying off. If the road doesn't dry off, the road rots out, just like a car or anything else. So if you do see them out there, that's what they're doing. ... They're just trying to get some sunlight to the road and make it so that, when our plow trucks come through, they're not banging on branches."
Cliffe added, "Anything that's on the right of way, we do have control over. We can cut to the sky."
Water and Sewer Superintendent Richard Donner said a new water billing system is being worked on. "Hopefully, March's bills, when they go out, they will be in a new format for everybody. They'll be labeled as 'water bill' on the letter when you get them," he said.