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National Fuel plans for compressor in Pendleton raise residents’ worries

National Fuel Gas wants to put a nearly 22,000 horsepower compressor in the Town of Pendleton, but town residents say the compressor would affect their health, property values and quality of life.

The plan, part of National Fuel’s Northern Access 2016 Project, would allow the gas company to pump natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to eastern Canada. The 16-inch pipes that currently run through the area would be replaced with 24-inch pipes, and the plan also calls for a natural gas dehydration facility in the Town of Wheatfield.

The compressor project dominated the Town Board’s regular meeting Monday evening, which ran over two hours long.

“I didn’t expect this meeting to be short,” said Supervisor James Riester afterward.

Nearly 50 residents packed the town hall for the meeting. Residents who oppose the project have formed the Pendleton Action Team, and expressed concerns about the noise and vibration from the machinery.

“One of the questions I want to ask the DEC is, ‘how far do these vibrations travel?’” said Paula Morgan, who is involved with the action team and lives near the proposed project.

Morgan also expressed concern for animals in the area.

“We don’t know what it’s going to do with the wildlife that we have in the area,” she said. “There are horses and there are some people who keep bees.”

The proposed location of the project, in a residentially zoned area off Beach Ridge Road near the intersection of Aiken Road, has upset residents and town officials alike. Councilman David Leible, who lives on Beach Ridge Road, said he had concerns with the project, specifically its placement. The larger gas lines will run close to the capped-off Frontier Chemical Co. Dump, near the Pendleton-Wheatfield border.

“I don’t think anyone on the board supports this project,” he said.

According to Riester, the company’s standing as a utility company allows it to build on land zoned residential without much interference from town government, as long as the company can claim the project is for the “public good.”

“There’s no common good to Pendleton or Niagara County,” he said, noting that the town will not reap any benefits from the project.

National Fuel has offered to buy land for the project from Tobias Frommuller, a local farmer. The company has put Frommuller in a tough position, Riester said. If he doesn’t take what is offered for the land, it can make a claim for eminent domain and offer what the land is assessed at, which would likely be a lower amount.

Frommuller could wage a legal battle against the company, but he would have to pay for a lawyer and also lose the higher amount offered, should he lose in court.

The town is also looking at formulating an ordinance to control noise from the compressor, should it be built. There is no noise ordinance on the books, Riester said. “We don’t feel we have a choice,” he said. “If they come in at 60 or 70 decibels, we don’t have anything that says no.”

During the meeting, Riester worked on a plan with residents for an upcoming meeting with representatives from National Fuel and the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. May 20 in the Wendelville Fire Hall, 7340 Campbell Blvd., North Tonawanda.

“Facts, facts, facts,” he said. “That’s what helps us the most. The more facts we have, the better off we are.”