SENECA NATION (WIVB)- Seneca Nation President Elect Todd Gates grew up fishing in Cattaraugus Creek. He fears an impending natural gas pipeline could threaten the lands he holds dear.
“‘Water is life’ is what they say in North Dakota and some of the same groups are using the same basis of their argument here. You know, it is the same,” Gates told News 4.
If approved, National Fuel’s Northern Access Pipeline, a federal project, would run nearly 100 miles from McKean County in Pennsylvania up through Niagara County in New York.
Company spokesperson Karen Merkel said comparing this project to the one in North Dakota is like comparing apples and oranges. The pipeline will carry natural gas, not oil, and will be 12 miles from the Seneca Nation’s territory.
“We have pipelines that are in state and national parks and forests, under rivers, lakes, streams, creeks, wetlands,” she said.
Merkel explained New York pipelines have carried fracked gas from Pennsylvania since 2010. Fracking for natural gas isn’t allowed in New York, but transporting the fracked gas is.
This project is no different she said, and poses no threat to the waters in the area according to a study completed in July of this year.
“The FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) concluded through an extensive two year environmental assessment that there will be no negative environmental impacts by this project in the state of Pennsylvania as well as New York,” said Merkel.
She also stressed that the natural gas transported from Pennsylvania will not only reach Canada, but could also be shipped back to New York.
The pipeline would run through Cattaraugus, Allegany, Erie, and Niagara Counties. If approved, there would be annual property tax income of $11.5 million to be split between the counties. There would also be a one time sales tax of $6.6 million each of the communities would share.
Gates fears Eminent Domain; it’s possible for National Fuel to use Eminent Domain for the project, but the company states that’s a last resort, and wants to work with the impacted communities to reach a common ground.
National Fuel needs approval from FERC and water permit certifications from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Merkel expects a response from FERC any day now, and the green light from the Department of Environmental Conservation by March.
The company also requires agreement from counties where they would need to install above ground facilities.
So far, the company has received approval from Wheatfield and Elma; they still approval from Wales and Pendleton.
“We were never notified and the project is moving forward and there’s a lot of opposition from not only all those organizations but all the local landowners being really forced to go along with what’s happening,” Gates told us.
According to National Fuel, because the project doesn’t come close enough to the Seneca Nation Territory, they aren’t required to notify those residents, but said they’ve have more than a dozen public meetings on the issue since 2014.