Pipeline Protesters Have Message For Cuomo
Above Photo: From James Neiss
AMHERST — Locals who have been vocally opposed to the construction of a natural gas pipeline and related structures in Niagara Country attempted to get their message to Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his State of the State address on Monday.
Despite frigid temperatures, protestors stood outside the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts to request that the governor take action by denying the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s water permit for the project. The Northern Access Pipeline, proposed by National Fuel, includes constructing a pipeline between Wheatfield and Pendleton, with a gas compressor station in Pendleton and a dehydration facility in Wheatfield.
“We want Gov. Cuomo to come out and say that he doesn’t want this pipeline in New York,” said Diana Strablow, of the Sierra Club Niagara Group. “That it’s impacting 180 streams and 270 wetlands on it’s way up from Pennsylvania.”
Those opposed to the pipeline have expressed worries that the project could pose both environmental threats, such as land, air or water pollution, as well as quality of life issues such as noise or light pollution. They’ve expressed sentiments of solidarity with those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline and when another National Fuel pipeline was discovered to have been leaking for over a year in Franklinville, they questioned whether or not a similar occurrence could happen with the new pipeline.
For more than a year, protesters have been taking their concerns to their local officials. However, since the project depends federal approval, local leaders have said they’re unable to do much about it. In October, protestors picketed and spoke to the public in front of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Buffalo office, hoping he’d take up their cause.
“Schumer’s office, Gillibrand’s office, they all seem interested and respectful, but I don’t see the results,” said Pendleton Action Team member Cindi Broughton.”That’s why we’re going to Cuomo now and trying everything that we can to get him to listen.”
Protesters are calling on Cuomo to “complete” New York’s ban on fracking by also banning the transport of fracked gas through the state and the expansion of the industry’s infrastructure. The actual act of fracking natural gas is outlawed in New York, but transporting it through the state is not.
“Climate change is real, it’s serious and we need to make the transition to renewables,” Strablow said. “To meet those goals we’ve got to stop the build-up of this fracked gas infrastructure, whether it’s to transport it across Western New York for National Fuel’s profit or whether it’s for our own use, we need to look to renewables.”
Cuomo did not mention the project or the protesters during his address.
National Fuel has stated that they’ve invested more resources into public outreach on this project than any other project in their past. Karen Merkel, a corporate communications representative for National Fuel, has said that the company operates in accordance with state and federal regulations and, in the case of the Franklinville leak, said the issue was not considered a threat to public health or safety.
At this time, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the entity which approves or denies applications to new pipelines, has not ruled on the Northern Access project.