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Agitation against pipeline project spreads to Wheatfield

WHEATFIELD – The loud citizen opposition to National Fuel’s pipeline project in Pendleton has spread to neighboring Wheatfield.

Opponents of the project, fearing that it might bring health problems and explosion dangers into Wheatfield, have called a rally for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Community Center behind Town Hall, 2800 Church Road.

The foes of National Fuel’s Northern Access 2016 project have set up a Facebook page, dubbing themselves the Wheatfield Action Team, similar to the Pendleton Action Team name used by opponents in that town.

National Fuel, which already operates natural gas pipelines in Niagara County and elsewhere in Western New York, plans to expand to accommodate the export to Canada of gas obtained through fracking in Pennsylvania. It’s part of a planned $455 million pipeline network in Pennsylvania and New York.

In Pendleton, the concern is over two giant compressors to push the gas along, which are proposed for a 20-acre lot the company has an option to purchase from the Tonawanda Sportsmen’s Club on Killian Road, about one-half mile from the Wheatfield border.

In Wheatfield, National Fuel seeks to construct a station to remove water from the gas on Liberty Drive. In a meeting last week, opponents charged that the gas dehydration process would involve the release of a wide range of toxic chemicals.

Karen L. Merkel, National Fuel spokeswoman, said the dehydration station will not have compressors, nor will it operate with “routine venting of gas or blowdowns.” She said the gas will be a similar quality to that pumped into homes, “with little or no ‘free liquid’ water.” She said the water vapor in the gas will be boiled into steam and fed into a “thermal oxidizer” that has a 99 percent destruction efficiency on any hydrocarbons in the steam.

Assemblyman John D. Ceretto, D-Lewiston, announced that he has launched an online petition on his website, urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is supposed to decide on National Fuel’s project, to reject it. The petition is titled “Say No to Wheatfield Pollution,” and Ceretto said the project shouldn’t be built in a residential area.

Merkel said the Liberty Drive site is zoned industrial and the nearest home is one-half mile away. She said town officials suggested some sites that would take the station out of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station flight path.

FERC’s public comment period on the Killian Road compressor site ends Saturday; Ceretto said it should be extended. The comment period was reopened after National Fuel shifted the compressor site from its original choice, Aiken Road.

Meanwhile, several Niagara County activists took part in an Albany news conference Wednesday calling for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to prevent the issuance of any new pipeline permits until a detailed study is completed.

And Pendleton has scheduled a Christmas tree and Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. Monday at Town Hall, 6570 Campbell Blvd. Organizers said the main points will be to call for “world peace, health and no compressor station in Pendleton.”