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Proximity to air base raises concerns about National Fuel subsidiary’s pipeline plans

WHEATFIELD – A National Fuel subsidiary’s plans for a major new natural gas pipeline may undergo some changes because of its proximity to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

Town Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said the plans for the upgrade of the Empire Pipeline currently call for a natural gas dehydration station to be built at the southern end of Vantage International Pointe, as the former Inducon Industrial Park is now known.

“The place is right at the end of the main runway of the Niagara Falls air base,” Cliffe said. It’s about 1,000 feet from the end of the runway.

Cliffe said he mentioned the situation at a recent meeting of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, a group that promotes and lobbies for added missions and more development of the facilities at the base, which is now Niagara County’s largest employer.

When the council members heard the news, they decided to ask National Fuel to find another location for the dehydration station, where glycol is used to reduce the water content in the gas. “We’re looking at alternative sites,” said Julie A. Bachan, Empire’s senior land services manager.

The station would be connected to a new 24-inch pipeline being built as part of what the company calls Northern Access 2016: a $140 million upgrade of the pipeline originally built 20 years ago to import Canadian gas. As part of the plan, about four miles of new pipeline is to be laid in Wheatfield and Pendleton. The plans also called for a 22,000-horsepower compressor station in Pendleton to move the gas along the pipe.

However, National Fuel spokeswoman Karen L. Merkel said that no firm location has been chosen for the compressor.

She said the purpose of Northern Access is to move shale gas from Pennsylvania to Canada and northeastern U.S. markets.

Merkel said it’s separate from the Empire Wheatfield pipeline project, which is intended to improve gas supply to the Niagara Falls area.

The latter project was assisted last week when the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency board approved the company’s plan to run 1.68 miles of 8-inch gas pipeline through the Vantage industrial park.

Bachan said the work will begin at the existing pipeline just south of Inducon Drive at Lockport Road.

It will primarily follow the route of an existing sewer line to reach a connection with National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp.’s existing pipe just north of the CSX Transportation railroad trestle over Walmore Road.

IDA attorney Mark J. Gabriele said the existing easement through the industrial park means the pipeline won’t harm the salability of land in the park.

Merkel said National Fuel is applying to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week for certification of the large Northern Access project.