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National Fuel Northern Access Project: FERC study finds no significant impact

Fri, Jul 29th 2016 10:15 am

Commission issues environmental assessment on its review of the project

National Fuel's Northern Access Project, which includes the construction of a natural gas dehydration facility on Liberty Drive in the Town of Wheatfield, does not have a significant impact on the environment, so said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in its recent environmental assessment.

FERC's EA states, "based on our analysis, and considering that the project facilities would be largely co-located with existing facilities, ... the impacts associated with the project can be sufficiently mitigated to support a finding of no significant impact and, thus, an EA is warranted. ... We have determined that if National Fuel constructs and operates the proposed facilities in accordance with its application and supplements and our recommended mitigation measures, approval of this proposal would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment."

"This issuance of the environmental assessment is a significant step forward in the FERC review process for the Northern Access Project," wrote Ronald C. Kraemer, National Fuel Gas
Supply Corp's senior vice president in a company press release Wednesday. "Within the past two years, National Fuel has included more than 3,200 pages of environmental analysis as part of the FERC certification process with thorough and detailed studies relative to aquatic resources, vegetation and wildlife, cultural resources, geology, soils, land use, air quality and noise. In addition, we provided more than 54,000 pages of supplemental environmental documentation to FERC including responses to numerous data requests and hundreds of stakeholder comments."

"With more than 100 years of experience in safely constructing and operating pipelines throughout New York and Pennsylvania, we are committed to working to ensure that this project is constructed in a responsible, environmentally-sensitive manner. This project will provide the North American Pipeline grid with abundant, cost-effective Pennsylvania gas supplies so that northeast markets can readily access natural gas to fuel the needs of homes and businesses."

Last winter, at numerous board meetings and public gatherings, including a rally outside Town Hall, residents and town officials expressed concerns regarding possible public safety threats from the dehydrator's emissions.

Upon hearing the news, Town of Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said, "Regarding the continuing discussions of this project, I believe that the board has answers for all questions brought by our members and to our members. If any new questions or concerns come from this SEQR or from the meeting on Wednesday, we will discuss possible actions and take any needed steps accordingly."

The Town of Wheatfield Planning Board will hold a public information meeting at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, at Town Hall regarding the dehydration facility. Representatives from National Fuel will present a more detailed drawing of their site plan and answer resident questions.

"The next step before the town is the Planning Board public information meeting coming up next Wednesday evening," Cliffe said. Although National Fuel representatives "do not believe that this is a required meeting, they have agreed to fully participate in this meeting, make their presentation to all present and respond to questions and concerns," he added.

FERC will continue to accept public comment on the Northern Access Project until Aug. 26. 
An EA is a comprehensive and rigorous review process designed to identify, analyze and evaluate the environmental effects of federally regulated infrastructure projects. The EA process involves the public in an open and participatory manner and allows for the effective integration of environmental considerations and public concerns. As part of that process, FERC, as the lead approval agency, evaluated the potential environmental impacts of the construction and operation of the project in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. FERC also sought input and coordinated with federal and state agencies as part of the EA process.

Tribune Editor Lauren Zaepfel contributed to this report.

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