Northern Access Pipeline comes to a halt; National Fuel responds

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Northern Access Pipeline will not move forward.

National Fuel wanted to run a 97 mile pipeline through Cattaraugus, Allegany and Erie counties.

It has federal approval but hundreds of people voiced concerns at three DEC public hearings over the past few months.

Now the DEC has denied water quality certificates needed to move forward with the pipeline.

The DEC released the following statement in regards to the decision:

“After an in-depth review of the proposed Northern Access Pipeline project and following three public hearings and the consideration of over 5,?700 comments, DEC has denied the permit due to the project’s failure to avoid adverse impacts to wetlands, streams, and fish and other wildlife habitat. We are confident that this decision supports our state’s strict water quality standards that all New Yorkers depend on.”

Ronald J. Tanski, President and Chief Executive Officer of National Fuel Gas Company, responded on Monday, saying:

“While we are still analyzing the NYS DEC’s rationale, the denial is purportedly based upon NYS DEC’s determination that Supply and Empire’s construction activities will impermissibly affect the quality of waters in the state, notwithstanding voluminous detailed studies prepared and submitted by the companies and our consultants that show any such effects are temporary and minor. These construction activities would certainly have less effect than either exploding an entire bridge structure and dropping it into Cattaraugus Creek (Route 219) or developing and continuously operating a massive construction zone in the middle of the Hudson River (Tappan Zee Bridge) for a minimum of five years, both NYS DEC approved projects. We and our contractors have a great record with respect to our construction practices. Our Empire Connector, Tioga County Extension, and Tuscarora Lateral projects were completed through NYS DEC Region 8 between 2007 and 2015, consisting of 110 total miles of pipeline and crossing 104 streams and 182 wetlands, and utilizing the same proposed construction practices with an excellent environmental record.

What is perhaps the most troubling aspect of this decision is that the NYS DEC waited literally until the 11th hour to issue this denial, even though we had detailed discussions with NYS DEC staff over a 34-month period and undertook detailed engineering and environmental studies at the agency’s request, to support the stream-crossing techniques that now form the basis of their denial.  We believe the NYS DEC’s analysis completely ignores the record that we developed in this process and is inconsistent with the standards of the Clean Water Act. Further, it attempts to set a new standard that cannot possibly be met by any infrastructure project in the state that crosses streams or wetlands, whether it is a road, bridge, water, or an energy infrastructure project.

Moreover, we are highly concerned about the ability of utilities in the state to meet the future energy needs of their consumers and the businesses and industries that drive the state’s economy. New York’s continued denial of permits for energy infrastructure projects is simply not sustainable, as it will have the effect of reducing New York’s energy reliability, lead to higher costs for consumers and be a limiting factor in the ability for industry to locate or expand in the state. While New York proclaims that it is ‘open for business,’ and ‘a premier place to invest and grow,’ the NYS DEC’s action belies that claim.

Today, 57 percent of the electric generation capacity in the state is powered by natural gas, and, as more coal and nuclear power plants are scheduled to be shut down, new gas-fired plants are being built in their place. Additional natural gas infrastructure is essential to connect nearby, growing supply areas to New York consumers. As New York continues a long-term transition to more and more renewable electric generation, it is essential for the natural gas industry to stand ready, at a moment’s notice, to provide the gas supply necessary to generate the power to support the reliability of the power grid. National Fuel remains committed to this energy infrastructure project that will be an important contributor to the energy dependability and economic vibrancy of New York state.”

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