Northern Access

A map shows the proposed route of the Northern Access pipeline in Western New York and Pennsylvania.

National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. is readying for construction next year of its proposed $410 million Northern Access Project.

The nearly 100-mile, 24-inch pipeline would bring natural gas from the Pennsylvania Marcellus shale fields through parts of McKean County in Pennsylvania and Allegany, Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara counties in New York.

“We’re waiting for approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” said Karen Merkel, director of corporate communications for National Fuel Gas. “We anticipate hearing from them soon.”

The project is expected to create 1,000 or more jobs during construction.

In the spring, the project also needs a water quality permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to cross streams and wetland areas where they cannot be avoided, Merkel said.

The line would stretch 96.5 miles from Sergeant Township in Pennsylvania, under the Allegheny River, and through part of the Allegany County town of Genesee and the Cattaraugus County towns of Portville, Hinsdale, Humphrey, Franklinville, Machias and Yorkshire, where it would cross under Cattaraugus Creek into Erie County.

The National Fuel Gas water quality permit application calls for most stream crossings to be at least 6 feet below the bottom of the stream.

Most crossings are proposed for a dry open-cut construction rather than the underground directional drilling method suggested by DEC. National Fuel cited Federal Energy Regulatory Commission analysis that said directional drilling was impractical for many of the streams due to steep terrain. DEC officials said the trenchless method would have no direct impact on the stream, while National Fuel said it required a larger footprint.

There are also plans by National Fuel to remove millions of gallons of water from the Allegheny River, Ischua Creek and Cattaraugus Creek for testing sections of pipeline under pressure that will need DEC approval.

Environmental inspectors hired by National Fuel will monitor environmental compliance.

The pipeline route was designed to come no closer than 50 feet from residences. In those cases where the pipeline route is within 50 feet, special requirements are followed after consultations with residents.

Merkel said that right before Thanksgiving, National Fuel signed a project labor agreement with unions that will be involved in construction of the pipeline.

Assuming National Fuel gets the required regulatory commission approval and DEC water quality permit, it will be built in several sections simultaneously to complete it by next November.

The new, $42 million Hinsdale compressor station built last year by National Fuel will be a key component in transporting gas north from the Pennsylvania gas fields.

The natural gas will be sent to the Porterville compressor station in Elma in Erie County and then to the Pendleton compressor station in Niagara County, where it will enter the North American pipeline grid, Merkel said.

“We transport the gas,” Merkel said. “It’s not our gas. Where it goes depends on the shippers and who they are selling it to. Some will go to Canada; some will go east.”

Some may even come back down distribution lines into Cattaraugus County, she added.

“We are like a moving van. We don’t own the contents of the van, we just provide the transportation,” Merkel said.

Information on the Northern Access Project can be found on the National Fuel Gas website: www.nationalfuelgas. com.

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