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Pendleton raises wetlands issue in dispute over National Fuel pipeline project

PENDLETON – The Town of Pendleton is requesting the right to independently test the soil conditions at the Tonawanda Sportsmen’s Club, where National Fuel wants to construct two giant compressors as part of a natural gas pipeline project.

Wetlands are the big issue, Town Attorney Claude A. Joerg said. “There could be all kinds of ramifications if it’s a wetland,” he said this week.

The town has hired an attorney to oppose the request by National Fuel subsidiary Empire Pipeline to expand its underground infrastructure in Niagara County and accommodate the pumping of gas to Canada from the fracking fields of north-central Pennsylvania.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the final say on whether and where the pipelines can be the laid and the compressors can be built.

“The latest notice from FERC said the Army Corps of Engineers was interested, and the Department of Agriculture was going to get involved,” Joerg said.

Also, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said Wednesday that it “is in the process of carefully evaluating the proposed project for impacts to wetlands.

No determinations have yet been made regarding this proposal.”

A DEC statement said that agency will work with National Fuel, its consultant and FERC “to ensure the state’s water resources will not be adversely impacted.”

National Fuel’s own study says 1.3 acres of the 20 acres it intends to buy from the Sportsmen’s Club on Killian Road are described as wetlands.

But National Fuel spokeswoman Karen L. Merkel said, “National Fuel has stated publicly that it intends to develop between 5 and 8 acres of the 20 acres, with the remaining acreage placed in a restrictive deed covenant that does not allow for any further development.”

FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said the commission reopened a public comment period after the company changed the compressor location, and FERC is taking public comments through Dec. 19. She said wetlands are among the topics that can be raised in an environmental assessment of the proposed project.

National Fuel originally sought to place the compressors, totaling more than 22,000 horsepower, on Aiken Road, but it changed the plan after public protests.

Killian is less populated than Aiken, but a large group of town residents, the Pendleton Action Team, haven’t wavered in their contention that the project is potentially dangerous and unhealthy.

Joerg sent a letter Nov. 20 to National Fuel’s attorney, Adam S. Walters, calling for the town’s engineering firm, GHD, to have the right to “conduct an analysis of the soil conditions, vegetation and topography” at the Killian site.

The letter also requested the results of any soil tests that National Fuel has conducted.

Joerg said he had not yet received a response to the letter.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com