On March 17, 2017; hundreds of New Yorkers marched through the city and delivered over 51,000 petitions to Governor Cuomo’s Office in Manhattan, urging him to reject the 401 Water Quality Certificate for National Fuel and Spectra Energy’s high-pressure, high-volume, fracked-gas pipeline projects and to shut down the pipeline expansion in New York.
On March 28th environmental groups and supporters marched again, this time from Trump Tower to Governor Cuomo’s office.
“We’re asking Governor Cuomo and the DEC to do the right thing and deny the water quality certificate and air permits for this destructive project,” said Diana Strablow of the Sierra Club Niagara Group. “Not only do we have a moral obligation to stop enabling fracking in Pennsylvania, we must protect our finite supply of fresh water.”
Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) must grant or deny critical permits for National Fuel’s proposed Northern Access Pipeline by April 7th.
New Yorkers and allies from neighboring states gathered in the state capital to protest the controversial project. Landowners facing eminent domain, conservationists and concerned residents marched from DEC headquarters to the capitol building, where they spoke of the threat the pipeline would pose to their health, safety, air, water and livelihoods. The group also delivered copies of a letter signed by more than 140 organizations, businesses and faith communities calling on the DEC and Governor Andrew Cuomo to deny air and water permits for the 99-mile pipeline.
If built, Northern Access would transport gas obtained from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The high-pressure pipeline would move half a billion cubic feet of gas per day through Allegany, Cattaraugus and Erie Counties in Western New York, connecting with an existing pipeline for export to Canada.
“It’s unbelievable,” says Lia Oprea, whose property is on the planned pipeline route. “My family has owned our land for four generations; we’ve been trout fishing in the area since the 1830s and our land is on the National Historic Register [as the Rider-Hopkins Farm and Olmsted Camp]. Now, a multi-billion-dollar corporation wants to endanger our lives and our water so they can make more money. That’s not right. We’re prepared to go to court to protect our working farm, our source of income, our heritage and our quality of life.”
The Northern Access project would require trenching across 192 streams and 270 wetlands, including New York State-protected trout streams and 13 miles of an aquifer that provides water for thousands of residents. Fifty miles of the pipeline would go through forested lands. Digging through waterways and clear-cutting trees for the project would threaten cold water fisheries and trout populations, for which the region is known; it could also put several state and federal endangered species at risk, including the dwarf wedgemussel, eastern hellbender salamander, northern harrier and bald eagle.
In April 2016, the DEC denied a key water-quality certificate for the Constitution Pipeline, a gas pipeline that was proposed through the Southern Tier and western Catskills. It would have involved fewer stream and wetland crossings than Northern Access but similar construction methods. The DEC concluded the Constitution Pipeline would have endangered New York water.
“Western New York deserves the same protection for our water, air and residents,” says Diana Strablow. “There should be no sacrifice zones. Not only do we have a moral obligation to stop enabling fracking in Pennsylvania, we must protect our finite supply of fresh water.”
Governor 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 to achieve the goals outlined in the Governor’s Clean Energy Standard.” The Northern Access Pipeline would undermine those goals, as well as Cuomo’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
National Fuel has estimated that additional facilities, equipment and pipeline leakage associated with its project would produce almost 140,000 tons per year of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases. However, when all the gas to be carried in the pipeline is burned, Northern Access would be responsible for tens of millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions pumped into the atmosphere every year.
“Think about your kids,” says Strablow. “We need to transition to renewables—for energy and job creation—not use our state as a thruway for fossil fuels that hurt people and the climate.”
The project would also mean a large new compressor station and two miles of adjacent pipeline in Pendleton, NY, a ten-fold compressor-station expansion in Elma, NY, and a dehydration facility in the town of Wheatfield—all in residential areas.
“Compressor stations are what push gas through these high-pressure pipelines,” says Joseph Gibson, a Western New York resident and organizer with Clean Air Council. “They’re also extremely toxic. They
constantly emit carcinogenic VOCs [volatile organic compounds], carbon monoxide, smog-forming gases, and other pollutants. You don’t want your family living near these pipelines, and especially not near these facilities.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that oversees interstate natural gas pipelines, dismissed landowner objections and issued its final approval, a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, in February. That allows National Fuel to petition a federal judge for eminent domain condemnation of properties whose owners have refused to sign contracts. Proceedings are expected to be scheduled in the next few weeks. According to Gibson, National Fuel attorneys will likely ask for “quick take” condemnation, allowing them to build the pipeline before compensating landowners who have not given consent, a direct violation of the fifth amendment of the Constitution. Many landowners have likewise cried foul since the gas is not intended for local use, making this a matter of private profit rather than public need.
The DEC is bound by federal deadline to make a decision on air and water permits for the Northern Access Pipeline by Friday, April 7th.
SPECTRA Energy’s AIM (Algonquin Incremental Market) pipeline, the Atlantic Bridge pipeline and National Fuel’s Access Northeast pipeline are three segmented parts to one massive pipeline expansion that names exactly their goal: to transport gas up and out of the U.S. via Canada. They claim that it is for domestic use, but except for few heavy polluting gas-fired power plants they are building in order to pass the cost of building the pipelines onto the rate-payers (that’s you and me!), the gas is intended for export where European markets will pay 6-10 times more for our fracked gas.
Because of the threat posed by the pipeline to the streams and wetlands it will cross, the air quality threat from emissions from the compressor and dehydration stations, and the global climate threat posed by increasing fossil fuel infrastructure, the Seneca Nation, local governments, and severalenvironmental groups continue to organise to oppose the Northern Access Pipeline.
National Fuel has hired two former Cuomo environmental attorneys – Robert Rosenthal, Cuomo’s former assistant counsel for energy and environment, and Steven Russo, former deputy commissioner at the Department of Environmental Conservation – to lobby for the Northern Access Pipeline. The DEC is the agency now deliberating on whether to issue water quality permits for the project. Other pipeline lobbyists include former State Senator George Maziarz, who resigned suddenly in 2016 amid a campaign finance investigation, and Samantha Diliberti, who represented Cuomo in the Hudson Valley.
Landowners available for comment:
Lia Oprea: 310-770-3288 Jim & Gail Mangus: 716-877-0997
Russell & Darlene Vacinek: 716-982-2788 Joe & Theresa Schueckler: 585-933-8098
Landowner stories & photos: https://goo.gl/Ug9H15