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Wetlands issue may delay National Fuel project in Pendleton

PENDLETON – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was dissatisfied with a wetlands report submitted by National Fuel regarding the site of its proposed natural gas compressor in Pendleton, although the company insisted the objections would not cause a delay in the project’s approval.

Town Attorney Claude A. Joerg said Friday that a report by GHD, the town’s engineering firm, concluded that there were more wetlands on the Killian Road site than National Fuel said.

In November, National Fuel, based on an analysis by Wilson Environmental Technologies, told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that there were 1.33 acres of wetlands “in the southwest corner and along the western boundary of the project’s proposed 20-acre site. The wetlands are in a wooded area that will not be disturbed by the site construction.”

“I think it delays things until they get the wetlands approved by the Army Corps,” Joerg said.

“We do not believe this data request will delay the FERC certification process,” said Karen L. Merkel, spokeswoman for National Fuel.

The town Planning Board, however, has put site plan approval for the compressor on hold until the wetlands issue is resolved, according to board chairman Joseph McCaffrey.

National Fuel has purchased an option on land owned by the Tonawanda Sportsmen’s Club on Killian Road to construct two compressors, totalling 22,000 horsepower, to push fracked natural gas along a pipeline from Pennsylvania to Canada. The project, called Northern Access 2016, also calls for expanding existing pipelines in Pendleton and building a gas dehydration station on Liberty Drive in Wheatfield. The projects have drawn heavy public criticism in both Wheatfield and Pendleton.

But the federal commission FERC has said its review process supersedes anything the towns do to try to block the work, and Merkel said National Fuel is pushing ahead.

“If the project receives FERC approval, it is our hope that we can begin site work for the above-ground facilities in the summer or fall of 2016, typically the driest period of the year, to minimize environmental impacts and maximize efficiencies,” she said.

Joseph Rowley, project manager for the Army Corps, told The Buffalo News that the corps’ letter to National Fuel “was intended to ask for additional information.”

Steve Metivier, the chief of the corps’ New York application evaluation section, said some of the data the corps wants can’t be obtained until the growing season begins.

He said National Fuel would have to obtain a federal permit if it needed to fill in any wetlands, and no such application has been received.