Construction of National Fuel's Northern Access Pipeline Project has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The project will transport natural gas throughout the North American pipeline system, including to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline 200 Line, which serves New York state and New England markets, and to Empire's pipeline system, providing access to New York, as well as Canadian, Northeast and Midwest U.S. markets, National Fuel said in a recent press release.
In its order for the project's approval, FERC stated the project "will not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." It also stated the project is "designed to meet new demand, and there is no evidence that service on other pipelines will be displaced. No pipeline companies or their customers have objected to the project."
Approximately 97 miles of new pipeline is to be constructed within Pennsylvania and New York, including approximately two miles of new pipeline to be constructed in Niagara County. The pipeline is panned to be integrated with the existing National Fuel pipeline network, but also include the construction of a dehydration facility in Wheatfield, a compressor station in Pendleton, and the addition of compression facilities at an existing compressor station in Erie County.
"We continue to make progress working through the various federal, state and local regulatory processes, and this authorization keeps us on track for our recently announced in-service date during the second quarter of our 2018 fiscal year. National Fuel will invest nearly a half billion dollars to construct the facilities necessary to transport this critical source of natural gas to the Northeast U.S. and Eastern Canadian markets," said Ronald Kraemer, senior vice president at Supply Corp. and president at Empire Pipeline Inc., in National Fuel's press release. "As the Northeast becomes increasingly more reliant on this nearby supply source - and in order to meet the growing demand from residential and commercial customers, as well as from electric utilities that are replacing their coal-fired electric plants with natural gas-fired generation - the infrastructure required to provide these supplies must be built."
National Fuel stated the project would have "more than a $930 million economic impact, both direct and indirect, with approximately $735 million of the impact taking place in New York state. A private sector investment by National Fuel, it will be financed without government subsidies or economic incentives. Job totals will peak during the construction phase as the project's workforce is estimated at 1,680 jobs, 75 percent of which will be in New York. The Buffalo, Niagara County and Southwestern Building, and Construction Trades Councils recently announced an agreement with the National Fuel subsidiaries on the use of local union labor within New York. Pipeline construction in Pennsylvania will also employ union labor. The project also supports new and growing employment at National Fuel."
The press release further stated, "Locally, the project is estimated to increase annual property taxes receipts for New York's four counties by approximately $11.8 million, with an additional one-time sales tax impact of approximately $6.6 million for those same four counties. Twelve local school districts within those New York counties will benefit from the annual incremental tax dollars that can be allocated towards capital or infrastructure projects, restoring or enhancing academic programs or staffing levels."
Ronald J. Tanski, president and CEO of National Fuel Gas Co., said, "As a Buffalo-based company that built, owns and operates nearly 10,000 miles of pipeline in New York state, FERC's approval of the Northern Access Project is an important next step in our ability to continue to invest in the essential pipeline infrastructure serving New York state and interconnected markets."
He added, "While the state and nation continue their transition to more renewable energy generation, natural gas will continue to be a critical component of America's energy supply, economic health and national security. Equally, it's integral to the New York state economy, as the use of natural gas and the pipeline infrastructure that brings gas from neighboring states not only delivers clean, homegrown, abundant and affordable energy, but also provides good-paying jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for communities. We have 740,000 utility customers that depend on us to keep them safe and warm each winter. We want to make sure we have the pipeline infrastructure available to meet their expectations."
Along with FERC's go-ahead, the project still needs New York state approval. A public hearing on the project, hosted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Niagara County Community College. During the hearing, public comments will be accepted by anyone affected by the project.
Diana Strablow, Niagara Sierra Club Group member and former Errick Road Elementary School teacher, said she wants to make sure "People are aware of the hearing and they get out and have their voice heard."
Written comments can also be filed with DEC representative Michael Higgins, by email at [email protected], by fax at 518-402-9168, or by mail at 625 Broadway, 4th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-1750. All written comments must be postmarked or submitted electronically no later than Feb. 24.
Part of the Northern Access Pipeline 2016 Project includes a new natural gas dehydration facility to be constructed on Liberty Drive.
Since hearing of the proposed facility in 2015, residents, along with elected officials and local organizations (including the Niagara Sierra Club Group), have teamed up to hold rallies against the project, offer information meetings and submit questions to FERC's website.
Wheatfield residents have voiced several concerns about possible malfunctions, hazardous emissions, noise and other issues. Strablow said she is concerned about components of the project which would cross streams and wetlands in New York, as well.
"Why should New York bear the burden on its communities, its environment so that National Fuel can make a profit by sending this gas to Canada and for exports," she said.
National Fuel's responses to questions and comments submitted by residents and community groups throughout the FERC review process are posted on the FERC eLibrary website, https://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/elibrary.asp, and on the Northern Access Project website, http://www.natfuel.com/Supply/NorthernAccess2016/default.aspx.