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Northern Access Pipeline, Pennsylvania and New York, USA

Indigenous groups and local EJOs fight the proposed Northern Access Pipeline (NAPL) by National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation & Empire Pipeline, from Pennsylvania to New York state and Canada.


On March 17, 2015, National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation (“Supply”), a vertically-integrated natural gas company whose holdings include a regional natural gas utility, a transmission pipeline company, and an oil and gas driller, and Empire Pipeline, Inc. (“Empire”) applied for authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to construct an approximately 96.5-mile pipeline, called the Northern Access Pipeline (NAPL), from Northern Pennsylvania through Western New York [1]. According to Supply’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) report, NAPL would provide 350,000 dekatherms per day of capacity to markets in the northeastern United States and Canada; notwithstanding, the very same document states hundreds of pages later that NAPLs capacity is closer to 850,000 dekatherms per day [2].NAPL would stretch from Sergeant Township, McKean County, Pennsylvania, under the Allegheny River, through part of the Allegany County town of Genesee and the Cattaraugus County towns of Portville, Hinsdale, Humphrey, Franklinville, Machias and Yorkshire, where it would cross under Cattaraugus Creek into Erie County, New York.NAPL is proposed to cross 206 bodies of water and impact 389 wetlands and to include a new 22,000 horsepower (hp) compressor station and an expansion of an existing compressor station to ten times its current capacity, spearheaded by Empire. Empire also seeks to construct a natural gas dehydration plant to export gas from Supply’s Western Pennsylvania fracking sites to what the company calls “premium markets” in Canada. All propositions in this project value at an approximately $500 million investment [3].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Northern Access Pipeline, Pennsylvania and New York, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:New York and Pennsylvania, Seneca Nation of Indians
Location of conflict:McKean County, Pennsylvania, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Erie, Niagara Counties, New York
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Land
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

According to the National Gas Fuel Supply Corporation, NAPL will transport regionally produced supplies of natural gas to multiple markets in North America, providing reliable supplies of energy to Western New York, the Midwest and Canada. Once completed, NAPL would provide in total 490,000 cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of incremental firm transportation capacity on Supply. Of the project capacity, 140 Bcf/d would be delivered to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline 200 Line, serving NY and New England markets, and the remaining 350 Bcf/d of incremental firm transportation capacity will be delivered to Empire’s pipeline system, providing access to NY, Canadian, Northeast and Midwest U.S. markets (10).

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Project area:~25, 899
Level of Investment for the conflictive project~$500 million
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:The construction of NAPL has potential to impact approximately 1,302, 428 people, all of whom reside in McKean County, Pennsylvania, Cattaraugus County, Allegany County, Erie County and Niagara County, New York.
Start of the conflict:2015
Company names or state enterprises:National Gas Fuel Supply Corporation & Empire Pipeline (NFG) from United States of America
Relevant government actors:The government actors relevant to NAPL are multitudinous on the local, state, and federal level. The federal government actors are as follows: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), United States Department of Energy (DOE), United State Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), United States National Park Service (NPS), United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), United States Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). New York State and local government actors include: the New York State Public Service Commission (NYSPSC), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYDAM). Pennsylvania State government and local actors include: the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau for Historic Preservation, State Historic Preservation Office, and the McKean County Conservation District. Lastly, the sovereign nation of the Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI) is another relevant government actor in the conflict.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The grassroots organization behind the NoNAPL cause has assembled over time a passionate and flourishing following of numerous supports and environmental justice organizations. The following are those actively involved according to their websites and the most recent news: Green Renaissance of Western New York (GROW;, New York Energy Democracy Alliance (NYEDA;, Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE;, Mni Wiconi Water is Life Movement (, People not Pipelines, Delaware Riverkeeper, Energy Justice Network (, Public Accountability Initiative (PAI;, and Stop the Pipeline (
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Wastepickers, recyclers
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Genetic contamination, Noise pollution, Oil spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts, Deaths
Other Health impactsPotentially increased asthma rates
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women
Other socio-economic impactsSNI presidential elect Todd Gates fears the impending natural gas pipeline puts his own people, the souls of his ancestors, and his human and nonhuman relatives alike in grave danger.
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:In an impactful report from 2016 about the dangers of Appalachian Basin gas pipeline expansion by Oil Change International, planned gas pipelines in the region cannot be built without scientifically-informed climate limits if our nation is to achieve any climate goals. Nevertheless, there are recommendations to be considered in light of this, such as more rigid regulations and the shift to renewable energy. According to this organization, the only thing standing in the way of cultivating the nation’s renewable energy capacity we need to sustain electricity demand are the entrenched interests of the fossil fuel and natural gas industries. They recommend that no currently pending or future natural gas pipeline projects should be considered unless they can pass a climate test applied by any and all relevant federal government agencies and departments.
The previously mentioned University of Albany report propose their own remedy to potential environmental and human ills. They suggest that Supply build seven monitoring stations at each of the two compressor station sites, and obtain measures of four of the most hazardous contaminants over a period of 28 days before construction and/or expansion, during construction, during the stack test during construction, and after construction has been completed and regular operation begun. If significant levels of carcinogenic and toxic substances are found to be released from compressor stations, and can be determined how far they spread from the site, this information will define the population at risk that should be studied for adverse health effects in the future. If there is no risk to human health from operation of these compressor stations it is important to provide that documentation to local residents who fear exposures.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Although NAPL is still an ongoing issue, I would consider this case a relative success. Supply will continue to face hardships in light of the projects’ illegitimacy due to water quality permit denials from the NYSDEC. This taints the company’s pursuit to fight against the will of those who refused to forgo rights to their land through eminent domain; this grim future was exemplified after West Clarksville couple Joseph and Theresa Schueckler won their eminent domain appeal. As previously stated, consistent growth and awareness of this issue has been loyally spearheaded by regional groups who care very much about the soundness of their communities and environmental health.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries


Renewable Energy is Ready to Go in America
[click to view]


[1] States With Fracking Bans Are Still Building Fracking Infrastructure. Jen Deerinwater, Truthout. August 25, 2019
[click to view]

Landowner successful in eminent domain appeal
[click to view]

Information on NAPL from National Fuel
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Pendleton Action team
[click to view]

Sierra Club Niagara Group
[click to view]

Rally against NAPL in Albany
[click to view]

Seneca Nation of Indians
[click to view]

Wyoming, Erie and Cattaraugus Communities Act on the Pipeline (WECAP)
[click to view]

Wheatfield Action team
[click to view]

Other documents

Project Overview Map
[click to view]

Proposed Empire Pipeline facilities map Indigenous groups and local ejos fight proposed Northern Access Pipeline by National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation & Empire Pipeline
[click to view]

Other comments:"... the Northern Access Pipeline expansion (NAPL) as evidence that fracking-related activity hasn’t really ended, even though the actual process of fracking is no longer allowed to take place in the state. National Fuel’s NAPL would move gas from Pennsylvania to Canada, directly crossing the Seneca Nation’s land. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation originally denied necessary permits, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) overruled the decision. Construction is slated to begin in 2020." [1]
Meta information
Contributor:Sabrina T. Dabakarov (sdaba[email protected]), Skidmore College Environmental Policy undergraduate
Last update28/03/2020
Conflict ID:3947
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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