A federal judge cleared the way this week for a utility project in the Town of Wales that opponents insist will be noisy and harmful.
It’s also already built.
National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. sued the town last year in an effort to eliminate the noise levels included in a special-use permit for a proposed compressor station on Reiter Road.
The station went on line a few months later.
Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny made it official when he ruled this week that the town’s noise-control demands conflict and interfere with those set by the federal government.
“That’s a shame,” said Dorothy A. Carlone, an environmental activist in Wales. “I know people in the town will be disappointed.”
Carlone insists that the town’s goal was not to stop the project, but to simply move it to another less populated site in the town.
National Fuel welcomed the ruling, calling it a victory over local governments that try to substitute “their own wish lists of requirements and conditions” for those provided by the federal regulatory process.
“We hope the town boards and their attorneys will keep this court decision in mind, and resist the temptation to overstep the limits of their power,” said National Fuel spokeswoman Karen L. Merkel.
Town officials declined to comment on the ruling, but their lawyer was critical of how National Fuel dealt with the town.
He said the utility agreed to the noise levels and then turned around and opposed them as part of its federal court lawsuit.
“These are things they said they could do,” said Jeremy A. Colby, a lawyer for the town.
The town’s permit covers a wide range of issues, from visual impacts to emissions to the safety of chemicals stored on-site, but it apparently was the permit’s noise-level guidelines that worried National Fuel.
Merkel said the utility never agreed to the town’s more restrictive noise levels and, from the beginning, argued in favor of levels adopted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“We repeatedly requested that the Town of Wales adopt the FERC certificate conditions as the project had been thoroughly reviewed and approved by the federal government,” she said in a statement.
Colby said it’s too early to know if the town will appeal, but he was quick to praise its leaders for taking on the utility. “They stood up for residents,” he said.
The new compressor station is part of a network of National Fuel facilities that transfer natural gas through pipelines to Canada.