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Over 150 NY Groups Call For Comment Extension on Fracked-Gas Pipeline

Written By Editor on 2/21/17 | 2/21/17

Albany, NY — More than 150 grassroots groups, businesses, faith communities, and organizations such as Food & Water Watch, Clean Air Coalition, NRDC, and Sierra Club are requesting that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) extend the public comment period for National Fuel’s Northern Access 2016 Project. In a letter delivered to the DEC on Friday, February 17, the groups contend that one month is insufficient for communities and organizations to study and comment on a project the size and complexity of the proposed pipeline.

The controversial Northern Access pipeline would be nearly 100 miles long and cross hundreds of sensitive streams and wetlands in Western New York, including state-protected trout streams and an aquifer that provides water for thousands of residents. The majority of the pipeline’s gas—a half-billion cubic feet per day from Pennsylvania’s shale fields—would be exported, passing under the Niagara River into Canada.

The DEC combined comment hearings for air and water permits, allowing members of the public only three minutes to provide verbal comments on both. According to Diana Strablow of the Sierra Club’s Niagara Group, two of the three hearing locations were too small; many people arrived prepared to comment but left when they saw overflow crowds and no available seating. “That deprived people of their right to be heard,” says Strablow.

Though the DEC is also accepting written comments, concerned residents have been calling and emailing the agency for weeks, asking for more information, more hearings, and more time to comment.

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.” But Northern Access would move more gas into New York, as well as export gas to Canada.

“National Fuel is in a hurry to lay pipe,” says Lia Oprea, a landowner on the proposed route whose Erie County farm is on the National Historic Register. “But this project defies the governor’s vision for New York. We worry the company is pressuring the DEC into approving yet another unnecessary pipeline that enriches corporations but threatens public health and safety.”

In April 2016, the DEC denied a key water-quality certificate for the Constitution Pipeline, a project that would have involved fewer stream and wetland crossings than Northern Access but similarly flawed construction methods. The DEC concluded the project would have endangered New York water.

Emphasizing that the Northern Access pipeline could dramatically harm air and water quality, the groups are asking the DEC to grant an additional 60 days for public comment on the project. The current deadline for comments is February 24, 2017.

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