It's all about jobs, and maybe less about gas, to hear union workers and business owners talk about the Northern Access Pipeline.
Union workers are looking forward to an estimated 1,600 jobs that would be created by building the pipeline to carry natural gas from Pennsylvania to the northeast United States and Canada, and they stood up in favor of the project Wednesday night.
So did employees of National Fuel, and workers at companies that do business with National Fuel. All supported the pipeline.
But some of those who spoke asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation to deny the necessary permits, and to extend the comment period.
"There's decisions we have to make as a society about what we value," said Sara Buckley, a resident of Wales.
More than 300 people attended a public hearing on the project proposed by National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. and Empire Pipeline, Inc., both subsidiaries of National Fuel Gas Co., in Iroquois Central High School in Elma on Wednesday evening.
A third and final hearing on the project is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday in Room E-140 at Niagara County Community College in Sanborn.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the $450 million project, which also needs permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation before construction could begin.
The project would transport Marcellus and Utica shale gas from Pennsylvania – harvested through deep-well hydraulic fracturing – through a 24-inch pipeline. The pipeline would travel north, connecting with the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Wales and National Fuel’s Empire Pipeline in Pendleton.
Josh Williams, an Elma resident, echoed many of the union members who spoke. A member of the Operating Engineers, he said the economic impact from the project will be huge.
"Fifteen hundred people working on this project are going to spend a lot of money in our community," he said.
But, Buckley said her 4-year-old daughter has asthma, and she is concerned about the methane gas that would be emitted from a compressor station.
"We don't have to choose between being union members and being moms," she said.
Union members, Nat Fuel employees & businesses supplying utility support proposed pipeline from Pennsylvania to WNY pic.twitter.com/AAZSPZ4vJl
— Barbara O'Brien (@bobrieneden) February 8, 2017
The Northern Access Project consists of approximately 97 miles of new pipeline from McKean County, Pa., through the New York counties of Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara. Approximately 71 miles would be located in New York, and about 78 percent of the pipeline would be co-located with existing pipeline and powerline rights-of-way.
A new, 24-inch diameter transmission pipeline would be built through Allegany, Cattaraugus and Erie counties. The pipeline would connect with the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Wales. There also would be the addition of about 5,000 horsepower of compression to the company's existing Porterville Compressor station in Elma and a new 15,000 horsepower compressor station in Pendleton, as well as a new natural gas dehydration facility in Wheatfield.
In Western New York, the pipeline would cut through the Erie County towns of Sardinia, Holland, Colden, Aurora, Wales, Marilla and Elma; the Allegany County towns of Genesee and Clarksville, and the Cattaraugus County towns of Portville, Hinsdale, Ischua, Humphrey, Franklinville, Machias and Yorkshire.
The towns of Pendleton and Wheatfield in Niagara County also would be affected by the project.
National Fuel estimates the project would contribute nearly $12 million in annual property tax revenues across four counties in New York, benefiting a dozen school districts.
The DEC will accept comments for two weeks, and they must be postmarked or submitted electronically by fax or email no later than Feb. 24.