You are here

LAWSUIT: Fenton procedures flawed in transfer station approval


A lawsuit seeking to overturn the recent approval of a natural gas transfer station in Port Dickinson claims the Town of Fenton Planning Board failed to follow proper procedures during the five-month project review.

In a 127-page filing with the State of New York Supreme Court, lawyers for Chenango Valley Central School District argue the town planning board skirted several required reviews when it endorsed the controversial project in late May.

Also named as a defendant in the suit is NG Advantage of Colchester, Vermont, the project sponsor.

As a remedy, the school district is asking the court to halt the project, vacate the planning board's approval and require it to complete a more exhaustive environmental review.

The lawsuit characterizes the approval as "arbitrary and capricious" because it ignores "substantial evidence" that questions the advisability of the project and also alleges the planning board conducted meetings on the project without proper notice in violation of the state's open meetings law.

Lawyers say the Fenton board also failed to consider the potential effect of increased truck traffic in an area already congested. Evidence that the project will have minimal effect on traffic, as claimed by the board, is non-existent, lawyers said.

Representing the school district is Tooher & Barone LLP, an Albany-based firm that concentrates on environmental, natural resource, land use and zoning issues. The district approved the lawsuit in an 8-0 vote, with one abstention, at a special meeting in early June. The district had no estimate of the costs.

The natural gas transfer station on the West Service Road near the Interstate 81/88 Interchange will tap the Millennium pipeline, primarily for commercial and industrial customers, according to project sponsor NG Advantage.

The facility will compress gas from the pipeline and load it into specialized trailers for delivery. The process within the industry is know as a "virtual pipeline" because it delivers relatively inexpensive natural gas to customers without ready access to a natural gas supply. Industrial and commercial customers prefer the natural gas supply because it is less expensive and cleaner burning than alternatives such as coal and fuel oil now in use.

While the project may aid others, opponents say it stomps on the rights of those who live near the transfer station. They point to concerns over the Port Dickinson site's proximity to schools, and the heavy burden it will place on local roads.

Despite the public urging for two separate town boards to deny or delay approval of the plan, Town of Fenton Planning Board gave the go-ahead to the project late last month.

The site is within a few hundred feet of Chenango Valley School District buildings and a Port Dickinson park.

A Broome County Planning Department review suggested — in 13 pages of itemized objections and 18 more of supporting documents — the project would have "significant negative impacts" and recommended denial.

According to NG Advantage, the facility will house four, 500-horsepower compressors at its opening, with a maximum of 12. Up to 125 trucks a day will draw the compressed gas for delivery to industrial and commercial customers located away from the main 36-inch Millennium pipeline. The operation will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week filling trailers with natural gas for customers generally within a 200-mile radius of the facility.

NG Advantage currently operates two other compressor stations, in Concord, New Hampshire, and near Burlington, Vermont, and serves customers in 27 industries.

Project opponents won the support of Ithaca-based environmentalist Walter Hang, who, on Friday, claimed the project poses serious hazards to nearby residents.

"These pipeline do occasionally have uncontrolled releases," Hang said. "Damage has happened."

He called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to employ a moratorium on further expansion of the fossil fuel infrastructure to achieve his goal of employing renewable sources for 50 percent of the state's energy supply by 2030.

"It's time (for the governor) to either put up or shut up," Hang said during an early afternoon press conference in front the Binghamton Government Plaza on Hawley Street.