Maureen Singer is not happy about a proposed natural gas transfer station in the Town of Fenton. “It’s tough to digest how a responsible governing body approved that,” she said.
A natural gas transfer station taps into an existing pipeline, puts the gas on trucks, and ships it to places where relatively inexpensive fuel might be hard to get. The town approved the project earlier this year.
A church and the Chenango Valley School District have filed separate lawsuits.
Concern Over Process
Next to the proposed site, there are baseball fields, a playground, and a basketball court. Singer said her son plays there all the time. “Unfortunately, the basketball court is probably one of the closest recreational facilities in proximity to the proposed NG site,” she said. “Which is just frightful to me.”
The suit claims the town and NG Advantage didn’t consider the increased truck traffic and environmental impacts. The suit points to a report from the Broome County Planning Department that recommended denying the project. NG and the town said they addressed all these concerns.
Mostly, Singer and the other plaintiffs accuse the Fenton Town Board of not properly informing them throughout the process. They say that was on purpose.
“We have a governing body that literally they will put sandwich boards out to alert the community about flushing hydrants,” Singer said.
Town of Fenton Supervisor David Hamlin declined to be interviewed for this story. He said he couldn’t comment while the case is being litigated.
“We’ve Never Been Sued”
Rico Biasetti, CEO of NG Advantage, said the response to the project caught him by surprise. “We’ve never been sued, we’ve never been questioned by any of the communities that we’re in. So for us, this is all new territory”
Biasetti said the station is good for the community. He said it creates jobs and offers a cheap fuel for businesses. He also disagreed with some of the safety and environmental accusations.
That being said, Biasetti said he wished the company spoke with residents more directly, outside of the planning board meetings NG attended. “Looking back on it, we should’ve gone to the community to begin with,” he said. “Not realizing there was this much animosity toward the project.”
These disagreements are common at the local level, said Jennifer Dodge. She teaches at the University of Albany. Dodge said it can be hard for residents to rifle through technical information at a board meeting. At the same time, few people typically show up to town board meetings.
Still, Dodge said boards have to try even harder when a controversial issue comes up. “When you have citizens who are filing lawsuits or protesting or raising concerns and sending letters, [there’s] a signal that some kind of broader conversation might be necessary and possible,” she said. “And public officials should be a bit humble about what they know and what they can learn from citizens about what their concerns are.”
Biasetti said he regrets not learning more about residents concerns. He wished they talked more to the community.
I mentioned that comment to Maureen Singer. “Everybody had the opportunity to communicate with the public,” she said. “They just chose not to.”
NG said they were willing to speak and with any resident who had concerns about the transfer station.
Both the company and the residents said they plan to continue to fighting regardless of the outcome of the hearing.