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Planning board didn't take 'hard look' in NG Advantage approval, judge says


Rico Biasetti, NG Advantage chief executive, says opponents have the wrong idea about his project for a natural gas compressor/transfer station because misinformation has been spread about the plan.
Jeff Platsky / Staff video

Don McDufee, left, and Kurt Mohney protest the construction of a natural gas transfer station in the Town of Fenton before a community meeting by project sponsors, NG Advantage
(Photo: Jeff Platsky/Staff photo)

A state Supreme Court judge in Broome County decided Monday the Town of Fenton Planning Board did not take a "hard look" at environmental and traffic issues when it approved a site plan for a natural gas transfer station project.

Judge Ferris Lebous, in a 36-page ruling nullifying the Planning Board's approval, aligned with petitions filed by parties against the project. They include the Chenango Valley Central School District and area residents Maureen Singer and others.

Opponents have argued the project infringes 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.

In Monday's decision, Lebous said the planning board did not take a "hard look" at traffic issues associated with the project and there was no evidence for him to conclude that it made a "reasoned elaboration of the basis for its determination."

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

Gerry Myers, chief operating officer of NG Advantage, shows plans for a proposed compressor complex and truck-loading site in the Town of Fenton on May 23, 2017.
(Photo: JOHN R. ROBY)

Lebous also said Monday that an aquifer protection permit was also not issued, making that a "separate and distinct" basis for deciding the planning board did not take a "hard look" at the potential environmental impacts of the project.

The ruling also included one caveat from the judge: While his decision nullified approvals in May and April by the Fenton Planning Board, the court was not saying there would never be a natural gas compression station at that site.

"The court passes no judgment, nor should it, as to whether in the future this use should be permitted at this location," Lebous said.

Claudia K. Braymer, attorney for residents who filed a lawsuit arguing the approval process was flawed, said Monday that concerned neighbors are "very pleased" with the judge's ruling.

"It continues to be our position that the natural gas compressor station should not be located in the proposed location because of its close proximity to schools, homes, churches, parks, wetlands, and the aquifer district," Braymer said in a statement. "In addition, we continue to assert that the natural gas compressor station is not a permitted use in the zoning district where it is currently proposed to be located."

In a statement after Monday's ruling, NG Advantage CEO Rico Biasetti said "we are disappointed" by the judge's decision, but remained committed to the project. He said the company will begin the approval process again and noted Monday's court decision was not made against the company, its project or the location.

"NG Advantage is dedicated to being a good community partner to the Town of Fenton — helping the local economy grow with new jobs and tax revenues, and bringing safer, cleaner energy to the area," Biasetti said. "This delay in our progress is frustrating, but we remain confident that the project will be approved and we will soon be part of the Fenton community."