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RULING RECOMMENDS ISLE ROUTE FOR PIPELINE STATE'S DECISION ON PATH FOR NATURAL GAS CONDUIT IS EXPECTED IN THE FALL

A 400-page recommendation by Administrative Law Judge Walter T. Moynihan made public Tuesday asks the Public Service Commission to approve a Grand Island route for the Empire State Pipeline.

Joseph S. Martucci, a Detroit-based manager of public affairs for the pipeline company, said the decision endorses Empire State's own plan.

"We are very delighted with the judge's recommendation," he said, adding, "I suppose any decision can always be appealed, but I think a decision by the (commission) would be pretty firm in this case."

Lawyers are scheduled to file briefs on the decision by July 12, but no final decision is expected from the commission until early fall. Empire State must also get approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the location of the entry point into the United States.

The recommended route, originally promoted by Empire State, would enter the United States at Grand Island, move in a northeast direction and cross the East Branch of the Niagara River into Wheatfield. It then would head due north to the Lockport Road vicinity and turn east along the northern borders of Wheatfield and Pendleton before heading southeast across the Town of Lockport panhandle. It would leave Niagara County through the southern part of Royalton.

The 155-mile natural gas pipeline is to terminate north of Syracuse.

Residents from Grand Island, Lewiston and Wheatfield opposed the plan at several meetings. Grand Island residents led the fight, claiming their area was too heavily populated and that the pipeline would hurt property values.

In the decision, Moynihan made several points supporting the Grand Island route, Martucci said, with environmental considerations among the most salient.

"His feelings were . . . it would have less environmental impact than the alternate route at Lewiston," Martucci said.

Moynihan declined to capsulize his long decision but said Martucci was essentially correct on that point. Patricia Akinbami of Grand Island Citizens Against the Pipeline said she was "really stunned by this decision," since the commission staff seemed to favor a route that entered the United States in Lewiston.

Wendy Howard, a spokeswoman for Erie County Legislator Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, who represents Grand Island, said she was "livid." She said some of the information on which the decision was based is outdated.

"I have to say it is out of touch with environmental issues as treated by other agencies," said David Seeger, the attorney for the Grand Island citizens group. "It goes to show the Public Service Commission is pro-applicant and doesn't know how to treat the citizens."

Lewiston Councilman James F. Mudd, who said he was "very pleased for the citizens of Lewiston," added that two of his constituents are undoubtedly happy to hear of the recommendation. "At least two families were due to lose their homes down on the river if that went through," he said. He said it would have also caused disruption at the Stella Niagara Education Park.

The pipeline is expected to cost $85 million. Empire State is a consortium of Union Enterprises of Toronto, the Coastal Corp. of Houston, and the Rochester Gas and Electric Co.

Martucci said boring could begin as early as the fall. If that happens, "We'd hope to be in service in late spring of 1991," he said.

Martucci said Empire State already has received commitments for about 80 percent for the line's service capacity, 150 million cubic feet of natural gas a day.

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