As a key water-quality certificate permit deadline looms, New Yorkers urge Governor Cuomo to deny it and block Northern Access export pipeline
Albany, NY — With less than two weeks left before the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) must grant or deny critical permits for National Fuel’s proposed Northern Access Pipeline, New Yorkers and allies from neighboring states gathered in the state capital to protest the controversial project. Landowners facing eminent domain, conservationists and concerned residents marched from DEC headquarters to the capitol building, where they spoke of the threat the pipeline would pose to their health, safety, air, water and livelihoods. The group also delivered copies of a letter signed by more than 140 organizations, businesses and faith communities calling on the DEC and Governor Andrew Cuomo to deny air and water permits for the 99-mile pipeline.
If built, Northern Access would transport gas obtained from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The high-pressure pipeline would move half a billion cubic feet of gas per day through Allegany, Cattaraugus and Erie Counties in Western New York, connecting with an existing pipeline for export to Canada.
The Northern Access project would require trenching across 192 streams and 270 wetlands, including New York State-protected trout streams and 13 miles of an aquifer that provides water for thousands of residents. Fifty miles of the pipeline would go through forested lands. Digging through waterways and clear-cutting trees for the project would threaten cold water fisheries and trout populations, for which the region is known; it could also put several state and federal endangered species at risk, including the dwarf wedgemussel, eastern hellbender salamander, northern harrier and bald eagle.
In April 2016, the DEC denied a key water-quality certificate for the Constitution Pipeline, a gas pipeline that was proposed through the Southern Tier and western Catskills. It would have involved fewer stream and wetland crossings than Northern Access but similar construction methods. The DEC concluded the Constitution Pipeline would have endangered New York water.
“It’s unbelievable,” says Lia Oprea, whose property is on the planned pipeline route. “My family has owned our land for four generations; we’ve been trout fishing in the area since the 1830s and our land is on the National Historic Register [as the Rider-Hopkins Farm and Olmsted Camp]. Now, a multi-billion-dollar corporation wants to endanger our lives and our water so they can make more money. That’s not right. We’re prepared to go to court to protect our working farm, our source of income, our heritage and our quality of life.”
Governor Cuomo, in his 2017 State of the State address, said New York “must double down by investing in the fight against dirty fossil fuels and fracked gas from neighboring states to achieve the goals outlined in the Governor’s Clean Energy Standard.” The Northern Access Pipeline would undermine those goals, as well as Cuomo’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
National Fuel has estimated that additional facilities, equipment and pipeline leakage associated with its project would produce almost 140,000 tons per year of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases. However, when all the gas to be carried in the pipeline is burned, Northern Access would be responsible for tens of millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions pumped into the atmosphere every year.
“Western New York deserves the same protection for our water, air and residents,” says Diana Strablow, a member of the Sierra Club Niagara Group. “There should be no sacrifice zones. We’re asking Governor Cuomo and the DEC to do the right thing and deny the water quality certificate and air permits for this destructive project. Not only do we have a moral obligation to stop enabling fracking in Pennsylvania, we must protect our finite supply of fresh water.”
“Think about your kids,” says Strablow. “We need to transition to renewables—for energy and job creation—not use our state as a thruway for fossil fuels that hurt people and the climate.”
The project would also mean a large new compressor station and two miles of adjacent pipeline in Pendleton, NY, a ten-fold compressor-station expansion in Elma, NY, and a dehydration facility in the town of Wheatfield—all in residential areas.
The DEC is bound by federal deadline to make a decision on air and water permits for the Northern Access Pipeline by Friday, April 7th.
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