OLEAN, N.Y. (WIVB)— The future of a Western New York gas pipeline was up for debate on the St. Bonaventure campus Tuesday night. The DEC held the first of three public hearings on National Fuel’s Northern Access Project.
For more than two hours dozens of people, evenly split on the issue, weighed in on the project. Those in support of the pipeline hope it will keep gas bills low and create jobs. People who opposed the pipeline said it could harm the environment and discourage the state from developing renewable energy.
Sardinia landowner Lia Oprea doesn’t think a new pipeline is necessary.
“Why do we need another pipeline that’s causing all of the problems, economic hardships, air emissions, water pollution, damage to our wells and aquifer?” she asked.
Her property is in the path of the project.
National Fuel proposes to build 97 miles of pipeline from McKean County, Pa. through Allegany, Cattaraugus and Erie Counties.
Company spokesperson Karen Merkel said they have agreements with 89 percent of affected landowners and they are negotiating with the rest.
She told News 4, “Our intent is to negotiate fair compensation. In an effort to keep projects on schedule, there are times that we must ask the court to intervene and determine reasonable compensation.”
Eminent domain is a last resort, she said. But residents like Oprea are fearful it may come to that.
“Eminent domain is basically for us, as far as we’re concerned, stepping on our property rights, seizing our property and essentially condemning our property so they can use it for a gas line,” said Oprea.
She’s worried about the effect the pipeline will have on USDA loans and insurance rates.
Meanwhile, it’s an opportunity for those in building trades.
“This is part of our career and these pipelines have been a great addition to our workforce every year,” said Sam Capitano, business manager of the Upstate New York Laborers District Council.
He said the project will have a trickle-down effect because these high paying jobs will give workers more money to spend in the community.
“The project has been delayed long enough,” said Capitano. “I think our public officials, the DEC need to act finally, get some guts, and make a decision.”
If you were unable to attend Tuesday night’s hearing, the DEC is accepting comments on the project through February 24th at 5 p.m. using one of three methods:
1.Speak or provide written comment at one of the meetings below
6 p.m. hearing on Wednesday, February 8th at Iroquois High School
6 p.m. hearing on Thursday, February 9th at Niagara County Community College Room E-140
2. Paper submission mailed or delivered to DEC at the following address: NYS DEC, Attn. Michael Higgins, Project Manager, 625 Broadway, 4th Floor, Albany, NY 12233
3. Electronic submission by email: NFGNA2016Project@dec.ny.gov.