NY’s Anti-Fracking Crusade Continues Against New Natural Gas Pipeline

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Environmental activists successfully pressured New York into denying a building permit for a natural gas pipeline.

The Northern Access Pipeline would shuttle gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to the Empire State where it would then reach consumers in NYC and Boston. It had already received federal approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Ronald Tanski, the CEO of National Fuel Gas Company, has been waiting on the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)’s approval to begin construction on the $455 million project. He objected to the agency’s last minute denial.

“[T]he NYS DEC waited literally until the 11th hour to issue this denial, even though we had detailed discussions with NYS DEC staff over a 34-month period and undertook detailed engineering and environmental studies at the agency’s request, to support the stream-crossing techniques that now form the basis of their denial,” he told reporters.

DEC acknowledged that anti-pipeline demonstrations prompted the move, which could negatively affect the state’s energy grid. The Empire State consumes the fourth most amount of natural gas in the country behind only Texas and California, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

“This decision follows opposition from nearly 150 organizations across the state, as well as three heavily attended public hearings and more than 5,700 public comments,” DEC officials said shortly after scuttling the pipeline.

Some landowners in the Western New York area expressed gratitude for Cuomo’s and DEC’s decision. Activist and resident, Lia Oprea, for instance, told reporters the move renewed her family’s faith in local action.

“It feels as if a tide is turning in the right direction and our voices are finally being heard,” said Oprea. “When a fuel company comes to you with threats to condemn your fourth-generation farmland under eminent domain for a pipeline right-of-way, it can be very intimidating.

The pipeline’s proponents, meanwhile, believe the DEC moved the goal posts on regulatory procedures needed to secure a permit. They argue that New York sets an impossibly high standard for infrastructure projects.

Tanski, for his part, believes the decision is “inconsistent with the Clean Water Act” and “attempts to set a new standard that cannot possibly be met by any infrastructure project in the state that crosses streams or wetlands, whether it is a road, bridge, water, or an energy infrastructure project.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, also publicly opposed the Northern Access Pipeline, telling reporters that project would hurt his ability to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas levels. He also banned hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in 2015, claiming it used too much water and could potentially contaminate the state’s drinking source.

Numerous studies from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that fracking does not contaminate drinking water and could not have any large scale impact on groundwater. Recent reports from the EIA also show the primary reason for declines in carbon emissions comes from an increase in natural gas production.

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