The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a report stating it concurs with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's determination that National Fuel's proposed Northern Access Pipeline Project wouldn't negatively affect animal species during construction.
FERC previously stated the project would not have a significant impact on the environment, but the New York State Department of Environment Conservation denied water quality certificates necessary for the project's approval earlier this year.
National Fuel is currently appealing the DEC's decision.
The Northern Access Pipeline Project would include the construction of a pipeline that would run from Pennsylvania up through Western New York, transporting natural gas to markets in the Northeast and Canada.
The project would also include the installation of a dehydration facility in the Town of Wheatfield and a compressor station in the Town of Pendleton.
In the past, some Wheatfield residents have expressed both environmental and safety concerns regarding the proposed dehydration station, mainly with possible emissions and malfunctions.
In its report to FERC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service focused on specific wildlife species that inhabit areas near the pipeline's path, including the bald eagle.
After reviewing the project's description, the service stated eagle nests are located "greater than 660 feet from any work area. Prior to project construction, we recommend (National Fuel) contact the NYSDEC for the most recent information on known bald eagle nests near the project area."
Also, "The Environmental Assessment report prepared for the project indicates blasting may be required for the project. However, (National Fuel) has committed to not conduct blasting near streams. We recommend any blasting within 0.5 mile (2,640 feet) of a bald eagle nest be completed between September 1 and November 30 (non-breeding season) to avoid disturbing nesting bald eagles."
The report also focused on the northern long-eared bat.
"To avoid direct impacts to this species, (National Fuel) has proposed tree clearing between November 1 and March 31 when bats are in hibernation," the report stated.
"Furthermore, (National Fuel) has agreed to follow Service recommendations on the timing of tree removal for the Empire EMP-03 pipeline section of the project to avoid direct impacts to this species. We recommend that (National Fuel) implement the same time period mentioned above, November 1 to March 31, for tree removal along the 2.1-mile pipeline corridor."
The report stated FERC determined the project "may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, this species."
The report also referred to the endangered rayed bean and clubshell mussels, which have been documented in New York state's Ischua Creek and Pennsylvania's Oil Creek.
"To avoid and minimize impacts to federally endangered mussels and other aquatic species, (National Fuel) plans to use Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) and directly bore under several waterbodies," the report stated. "We acknowledge that using these methods to install the pipeline is considered the best available technology and an appropriate measure to avoid impacts to Ischua Creek, Oil Creek, and aquatic biota."
In regard to the mussels, the report indicated FERC also determined the project may affect, but would not adversely affect the species.