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National Fuel plans to start compressor station work

National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. plans to start preliminary construction work today for a compressor station in Wales.

The action comes after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied appeals seeking to delay the project.

Although the company has been criticized through the process, "We did listen, and as a result we have an enhanced product," spokeswoman Karen Merkel said.

Concerned Neighbors Network and three residents had challenged the commission's approval of the project, which is part of the Northern Access Project to move natural gas north to the TransCanada pipeline. The group, raising concerns about noise, emissions, visual impacts and the lack of consideration of an alternative site, wanted a full environmental impact statement completed on the project.

But the commission ruled that the site on Reiter Road, known as the East Aurora compressor station, is the best place for the station.

"It's a disaster," resident Dorothy Carlone said of the ruling. "We haven't stopped fighting."

The federal commission said the noise study was conducted properly, Concerned Neighbors did not prove the need for an environmental impact statement, and there is no compelling reason to alter the design of the project and move it to Concord, where National Fuel has an existing compressor station.

That option would require modifications to the Concord station and the construction of 14.7 miles of pipeline at an estimated cost of $26 million, the agency's report stated.

Carlone said the commission did not answer comments and questions raised in the past several months and ignored letters from Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Reps. Brian Higgins and Kathleen C. Hochul.

"The whole thing is unbelieveable," Carlone said. "I don't know where we go from here."

Residents argued that the compressor station should not go near the park named for Wales resident Sgt. Mark A. Radamacher, who was killed in 1983 in the invasion of Grenada. Some in the community did not know that Erie County had renamed Hunters Creek Park for the fallen Army Ranger. The park is just east of Reiter Road.

Federal regulators acknowledged that impacts can seem greater the closer one is to a project.

"The commission is sensitive to the fact that even impacts determined as the result of a thorough environmental review to be not significant may seem significant to those in the immediate vicinity of a project," it said in its ruling.

National Fuel is seeking a building permit from the Town of Wales and plans to do preliminary site work on an access road at Reiter Road, Merkel said.

She said National Fuel never lost sight of the sensitivities surrounding the project. "We continued to listen to the public. When appropriate, we were able to re-engineer the design of the facility."

She said a very small part of an emissions stack will be seen from Reiter Road.

The Northern Access project would use current pipelines to increase the volume of Pennsylvania-produced natural gas transported from the Marcellus Shale region to the TransCanada Pipeline.