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Pendleton supervisor rebuffed on gas compressor compromise

PENDLETON – Supervisor James A. Riester proposed Wednesday that the National Fuel gas compressor controversy could be solved – at least as far as Pendleton is concerned – by moving the site into the neighboring Town of Cambria.

Riester’s suggestion, to place the company’s proposed compressor station near four other existing compressors off Junction Road, was rejected by the company, which said it thought of that already and decided it was too expensive.

Riester suggested that any additional cost could be alleviated by having National Fuel apply for a tax break from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency. But IDA Chairman Henry M. Sloma said he can’t see the IDA ever becoming involved in the project.

National Fuel is enlarging its existing pipelines in Western New York in a project it has dubbed Northern Access 2016, whose purpose is to move natural gas from the hydrofracking fields of Pennsylvania to markets in Canada.

In Pendleton, an existing pipeline would have to be enlarged and lengthened, and in order to push the gas along, the company wants to install two giant compressors totaling more than 22,000 horsepower.

After a site on Aiken Road drew public ire for being too close to too many homes, the company made a deal for a purchase option on 20 acres owned by the Tonawanda Sportsmen’s Club on less populous Killian Road.

The Town Board has hired an attorney to fight the plan before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will have the final say on approval. Residents have been up in arms over the project, alleging health and safety concerns.

Riester, who is a candidate for re-election Tuesday, sent The Buffalo News an email proposing the Junction Road site “where four other compressors are currently running without complaints.” That site is jointly owned by National Fuel and Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.

National Fuel spokeswoman Karen L. Merkel said alternative sites for the compressors, including Junction Road as well as Liberty Drive in Wheatfield, have been considered and rejected by the company. In August, National Fuel posted a response to a comment on the FERC website that explained the Cambria site isn’t on the same pipeline as the proposed Pendleton location. Placing the compressors there would require National Fuel to replace all three miles of the existing pipeline in Pendleton. Also, it would have to construct 8.1 miles of completely new pipe – after it acquired a 100-foot-wide right of way from all the landowners en route. “Not viable,” the company concluded.

Meanwhile, Sloma said it’s not an appropriate project for the IDA. He said, “This seems beyond our scope, and it seems National Fuel has the financial wherewithal to do this. … It’s not a problem of resources. It’s a problem of engineering.”

Riester responded, “Henry has given away a lot more money for far fewer taxpayers getting benefits than the 6,500 that would benefit in Pendleton. We need to have people stop saying things won’t work and start figuring out what will work and what we have to do to get there.”