FERC has issued a favorable environmental assessment (EA) of the Northern Access project proposed by National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. and Empire Pipeline Inc.

The project would provide incremental firm transportation to markets in the northeastern United States and Canada through National Fuel and Empire’s existing interconnections, including Empire’s interconnection with TransCanada Pipeline at Chippawa (a receipt point), as well as markets on the Tennessee Gas 200 Line in Erie County, NY, and other interconnections with local gas distribution companies, power generators, and other interstate pipelines available on both the National Fuel and Empire systems.

The project would create about 350,000 Dth/d of capacity to these market areas. National Fuel and Empire each held open seasons for the project from June 3-June 26, 2014 and executed a long-term binding agreement with Seneca Resources Corp. for

100% of the firm transportation capacity (see Daily GPI, March 18, 2015) [CP15-115].

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that the project would cause no significant impact provided proposed and recommended mitigation measures are taken. The EA is the culmination of a two-year environmental review process for the project.

Northern Access would include about 97 miles of 24-inch diameter pipeline from Sergeant Township, McKean County, PA, to National Fuel’s existing Porterville Compressor Station in the Town of Elma, Erie County, NY. It would also add 5,350 hp of compression at Porterville and create an interconnection with Tennessee Gas Pipeline in the Town of Wales in Erie County. A 22,214 hp compressor station would be constructed in the Town of Pendleton, Niagara County, NY, where about two miles of pipeline would also be added. Finally, a gas dehydration facility would be added in the Town of Wheatfield in Niagara County.

“Within the past two years, National Fuel has included more than 3,200 pages of environmental analysis as part of the FERC certification process with thorough and detailed studies relative to aquatic resources, vegetation and wildlife, cultural resources, geology, soils, land use, air quality and noise,” said National Fuel’s Ronald Kraemer, senior vice president. “In addition, we provided more than 54,000 pages of supplemental environmental documentation to FERC including responses to numerous data requests and hundreds of stakeholder comments.”

The deadline for public comment on the EA is Aug. 26. Some previous commenters in the docket asked the Commission to prepare a more rigorous environmental impact statement for the project.

“In preparing this EA, we are fulfilling our obligation under NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] to consider and disclose the environmental impacts of the project…[T]his EA addresses the impacts that could occur on a wide range of resources should the project be approved and constructed,” the Commission said.

“We also received comments from the Allegheny Defense Project and several individuals regarding the potential indirect and cumulative effects associated with production of natural gas from shale formations by hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Our authority under the NGA [Natural Gas Act] relates only to natural gas facilities that are involved in interstate commerce. The permitting of gas extraction, including fracking, is under the jurisdiction of the state agencies where those facilities are located. Thus, the facilities associated with the production of natural gas are not under FERC jurisdiction.”