Eyes trained on natural gas project through Finger Lakes

The $141 million Empire North project that would pump more natural gas from fracking operations in Pennsylvania through the Finger Lakes region has caught the attention of local environmentalists.

High-volume hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” was banned in New York state in 2014 over health risks. The process involves injecting large amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressures to release oil and natural gas from rock formations.

Despite the ban, fracked gas is what’s piped through the state and supplies New Yorkers. Concerns center on emissions, oversight and the impact on climate change.

For some, it also presents an ethical issue.

“Yes, we did ban fracking,” said Sue Dazie, a Victor resident involved with environmental causes in the region. “So, why should we allow (natural gas from fracking) through our state? We have already turned it down and now they want us to pay a price through our towns.”

Drawing attention are plans to build a natural gas compressor station in Farmington that lies along the route the Empire North project takes through Ontario County. In the Finger Lakes region, Empire runs 249 miles of pipeline transporting natural gas to more than 1 million customers, according to project parent company National Fuel.

The Empire North project includes minor upgrades to an existing regulator station in Victor and to a station in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. The project also calls for increasing the allowable operating pressure of the existing Empire Connector Pipeline that runs through Victor and Corning in Steuben County. Empire must meet federal environmental regulations and address impacts regarding issues such as noise, lighting, emissions, wildlife and water quality.

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