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153 New York groups ask DEC for comment extension on pipeline

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Wed, Feb 22nd 2017 01:00 pm

More than 150 grassroots groups, businesses, faith communities, and organizations such as Food & Water Watch, Clean Air Coalition, NRDC and Sierra Club are requesting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation extend the public comment period for National Fuel's Northern Access 2016 Project.

In a letter delivered to the DEC on Friday, Feb. 17, the groups contend one month is insufficient for communities and organizations to study and comment on a project the size and complexity of the proposed pipeline.

The controversial Northern Access pipeline would be nearly 100 miles long. The DEC's Notice of Complete Application of the Northern Access Pipeline stated that, in New York state, the project involves the crossing of 192 streams, which include: 60 perennial streams, 77 intermittent streams, 48 ephemeral streams and seven dry ditches.

Approximately 490,000 dekatherms of shale gas a day from Pennsylvania would be transported through the pipeline. A portion of the gas would be exported, passing into Canada.

The DEC combined comment hearings for air and water permits, allowing members of the public three minutes to provide verbal comments on both permits.

Diana Strablow of the Sierra Club's Niagara Group said two of the three hearing locations were too small. She said many people arrived prepared to comment, but left when they saw overflow crowds and no available seating.

"That deprived people of their right to be heard," Strablow said.

Though the DEC is also accepting written comments, concerned residents have been calling and emailing the agency for weeks, asking for more information, more hearings and more time to comment.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his 2017 State of the State address, said New York "must double-down by investing in the fight against dirty fossil fuels and fracked gas from neighboring states."

"National Fuel is in a hurry to lay pipe," says Lia Oprea, a landowner on the proposed route whose Erie County farm is on the National Historic Register. "But this project defies the governor's vision for New York. We worry the company is pressuring the DEC into approving yet another unnecessary pipeline that enriches corporations, but threatens public health and safety."

In April 2016, the DEC denied a key water-quality certificate for the Constitution Pipeline. The DEC concluded the project failed to meet New York state's water quality standards.

Stating the Northern Access Pipeline could dramatically harm air and water quality, the groups are asking the DEC to grant an additional 60 days for public comment on the project.

The current deadline for comments is Feb. 24.

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