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Foes of National Fuel compressor in Pendleton address Board of Health

LOCKPORT – Opponents of National Fuel’s plan to install two giant compressors in Pendleton to push natural gas through an expanded Empire Pipeline got the attention Thursday of the Niagara County Board of Health.

The board heard from Kim Lemieux of the Pendleton Action Team and Mike Alianello of the Wheatfield Action Team about what they see as the project’s health threats. The board took no action.

“It’s the first time we’ve heard this stuff. It’s a lot to digest,” said board President John Gotowko.

National Fuel plans to enlarge its pipeline system in Western New York to bring gas from hydraulic fracturing sites in northern Pennsylvania to the existing Empire Pipeline, through which it can be pumped into Canada for export sales.

However, besides a larger pipeline system, the company needs two special facilities. A 22,000-horsepower compressor station is slated for Killian Road in Pendleton, and a gas dewatering station is planned for Liberty Drive in Wheatfield.

Decisions on where the projects will be built belong to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington.

Lemieux showed the board a map that asserted there are more than 800 existing homes and 144 homes proposed in new subdivisions within about a mile of the Killian Road site. She also contended that the pipeline and the compressor station will emit harmful chemicals into the air, including benzene, a byproduct of natural gas drilling that is known to cause cancer.

The company says that small amounts of benzene and other hazardous chemicals will be emitted at the dehydration station in Wheatfield, although the technology being used will destroy 99 percent of it.

Lemieux contended that the Killian Road site lies “between two ridges and creates a bowl effect.” She said Pendleton is prone to fog and temperature inversions that might keep any emissions near the ground.

Reached after the meeting, National Fuel spokeswoman Karen L. Merkel said, “This is the cleanest facility we can build, meeting national ambient air quality standards at our property line.” She said National Fuel will “meet or beat” state and federal air permit requirements.

Pendleton Supervisor Joel M. Maerten said, “National Fuel is digging in their heels. The ideal site (for the compressor) would be the Cambria site on Junction Road.”

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. has a compressor station there. Lemieux called it “a very well-placed compressor station in a heavy industrial area far back from the road, which is where it should be.”

Merkel said, “I believe the town supervisor is ignoring the nine additional miles of pipeline that would have to be built … and the resulting environmental impacts to wetlands and the forested habitat for wildlife, not to mention the property owners who reside along that route.”

“If FERC is determined to put this compressor in, it should go where it has the least impact,” Maerten said. “I think National Fuel’s paying too much attention to the bottom line and not enough to the community.”

Merkel said, “We believe our preferred site for the compressor station is significantly better in total than any other site. We are charged by FERC to consider those sites that will have the least environmental impact on the communities. Killian Road is that site.”