At the heart of National Fuel’s Northern Access Project, an expanding venture to export fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to Canada by way of a Western New York pipeline, is the proposal to install a 22,000-horsepower gas compressor station in Pendleton, one that many residents fear will negatively affect the town.
A group calling itself the Pendleton Action Team was formed to oppose the compressor, and team member Paula Hargreaves wrote the Niagara Falls Reporter to say that articles about the relationship between the county and Motorola, which recently put up five 180- 290-foot-tall communications towers around the county, reminded her of the situation she and her neighbors are now facing with National Fuel.
“I was very interested when I read your article on the Motorola Tower in Lewiston especially when I came across the comments related to Niagara County attorney Claude Joerg,” Hargreaves wrote. “Your comments were bang on and sounded very familiar especially when it came to our current situation in Pendleton -- where he is the Town Attorney.”
Joerg also joined in the Motorola dispute, not on behalf of outraged county taxpayers who essentially woke up one day to find a 221-foot tall steel tower in their backyard, but on the side of the multinational communications giant.
When asked whether one of the towers, built in Lewiston, didn’t violate local law, he waxed philosophical.
"(Lewiston's) town code was reviewed as part of the process,” Joerg said. “It is not as if your code was ignored. I submit to you that we followed the law completely in going forward with this project."
The bucolic, rural environment of Pendleton was chosen as the site for the National Fuel compression station both because it is about halfway between the Pennsylvania and Canadian borders and because its small population isn’t likely to be able to mount enough opposition to stop it.
“As you may know, National Fuel in all their many forms and names is planning to build the largest natural gas compressor station in the entire State of New York, right here in Pendleton!” Hargreaves told the Reporter. “A mammoth 22,000 horsepower station. The only reason they are building the compressor here and a related dehydrator in the Town of Wheatfield is so that they can export the fracked natural gas from Marcellus Shale, Pennsylvania to Canada!
“The Town Board first heard about it in August last year, but were reportedly advised that there was nothing they could do about it - it was a Public Utility, Hargreaves continued. “Now here we are, the residents whose backyards they plan on building this monster in, scrambling to stop it. It is no wonder these corporate bullies get their way, they have teams of attorneys paid… they have political and public relations departments to suck up to the politicians who are supposed to represent us…”
A request by U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to have the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission extend the public comment period for the project was rejected.
Schumer and Gillibrand argued that residents have voiced concerns about this project, and that more than 300 recently attended a May 20 scoping meeting to do so. A joint statement by Schumer and Gillibrand said that many claim that they weren’t provided information about timing, status or potential impacts until last month. Others, according to the statement, received no notification.
“We can appreciate that the residents and land owners throughout Niagara County, particularly Niagara Wheatfield and Pendleton, have questions and concerns about this extensive project,” said National Fuel spokeswoman Karen Merkel. “National Fuel is listening, discussing and addressing public concerns that we are being made aware of,” she said. “Our engineers have designed and enhanced other facilities numerous times in an effort to reduce aesthetic concerns as well as noise emission levels.”
Comforting words? Perhaps. But despite the millions and billions of tax dollars collected by the federal state and local governments ostensibly to look out for the interests of their citizens, it is obvious that the corporations are the ones calling the shots.
Meantime the Reporter has learned that some of the same consultants hired by FERC to write extensive reports on how the Fracking fuel lines will not cause any disruption of lifestyle or property values have surprisingly been working for the same fuel companies who stand to profit from the installation of the new lines and compressors.
The names of these consultants - who have a clear conflict - are a matter of public concern and may have polluted the integrity of the process almost as much as fracking is polluting the water and land where it is being accomplished.