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Family, friends of park's namesake want NFG's project re-examined

Mark A. Rademacher grew up a mile from the spot on Reiter Road in Wales where National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. wants to build a compressor station.

His family believes the avid outdoorsman would be fighting the construction of the station today, had he not been killed in the invasion of Grenada.

Instead, a core group of Wales residents, supported by Town Board members, are leading the opposition to the station, which is about a half mile from the Erie County park named for the hometown hero and Army Ranger.

Rademacher was a 20-year-old sergeant when he was killed Oct. 25, 1983, the first day of the two-month conflict.

"If he was still around here, he'd be really opposed to it, because he enjoyed going over there," his sister, Jane Rademacher, said of the park.

"He enjoyed his sports, and he enjoyed being out. He used to go rappeling out there," added another sister, Lynn Schrimmel.

Residents in the southern Erie County town say the serenity of Sgt. Mark A. Rademacher Park, also known as Hunters Creek Park, and nearby homes, are threatened by the compressor station. They have enlisted the support of two retired Army Rangers in the eleventh-hour fight.

The two, Joseph Mattison, who remembers meeting Rademacher, and Barry Hayes, met with Wales Supervisor Rickey Venditti and visited with residents Wednesday. They met two of Rademacher's sisters, stopped by his grave at Evergreen Cemetery, and hiked in the park.

National Fuel wants to start construction next month on the station, which will allow it to move a larger amount of gas produced in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to Canada. But the company is waiting for federal officials to give the final go-ahead.

"The site that has been selected is located about one half mile, 2,750 feet, from Hunters Creek," said National Fuel spokeswoman Karen Merkel. "You will not hear, smell or see the station."

The gas is from a Marcellus shale producer -- not National Fuel -- that wants it carried from Ellisburg, Pa., to Niagara Falls, she said.

National Fuel has already received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build new compressor stations in Ellisburg and Wales and make modifications at its existing compressor station in Concord.

Residents are hoping FERC will re-examine the project, and the agency is considering the request.

Residents believe the tests submitted by National Fuel for ambient noise are inaccurate and higher than actual background noise. Wales Town Board members hired an outside firm to produce its own study.

"My only problem is the noise," Venditti said. "Even with their best efforts, a noise comes off of it."

There is an existing compressor station about 16 miles away, off Genesee Road in Concord, and Wales residents want National Fuel to construct about 16 miles of pipeline allowing the station to go there.

Residents said there are about 60 homes within a half mile radius of the Reiter Road station, and only one home in the vicinity of the Concord station.

Residents are hoping that FERC orders a full environmental impact statement be prepared, and they are gaining support for that.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has written a letter to FERC, asking for the full environmental impact statement. Deputy Erie County Executive Richard Tobe said the county is sympathetic to the concerns.

"Unfortunately for us, many of the concerns came up very late in the process," Tobe said. He said if there is a difference in the new sound levels compared with those submitted by the company, the county would support a new hearing.

Mattison said the issue becomes a concern to veterans if the wilderness of the park is violated. He supports a full environmental impact statement being completed.

"That really needs to be brought into a full blown environmental impact study, and as a fellow Ranger to Sgt. Rademacher, that's what I would push to see," he said. "If there's no damage to the park after that, as decided in the impact study, I'm happy as a clam."