NG Advantage’s Virtual Pipe Comes to the Rescue in Downstate NY

NG Advantage, the pioneer in “virtual pipeline” trucked CNG service, majority-owned by Clean Energy Fuels, tried to build a compressor station/trucking hub in a Binghamton, NY suburb, but that effort failed earlier this year due to local opposition (see NG Advantage Virtual Pipeline Project Near Binghamton is Dead). We’re sure the entire situation left a sour taste in NG’s mouth. Even so, this past winter NG didn’t turn its back on New York State, much to their credit. National Grid, one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world (covering Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and the UK), had a problem in Long Island during the winter months. As temps got super low, National Grid needed more natural gas to meet the spike in demand from customers. NY is pipeline-phobic, so what could National Grid do? They turned to NG Advantage and NG rose to the occasion, trucking CNG (compressed natural gas) from facilities in Massachusetts and Vermont to Long Island, helping supply National Grid customers in the Empire State. Here’s the story of a company that didn’t turn its back on NY…
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NG Advantage Virtual Pipeline Project Near Binghamton is Dead

In March MDN brought you the news that NG Advantage, which had big plans to build a virtual pipeline (gas compression & trucking facility) on the outskirts of Binghamton, NY, appears to have given up on the Town of Fenton location for the planned project (see NG Advantage Looks Beyond Fenton, NY to Build Virtual Pipeline). That impression is now further strengthened by comments coming from the Fenton town attorney at a meeting last week when he said, “My sense is that they [NG Advantage] are abandoning the project.” Abandoning in Fenton, yes. But not outright abandoning the project. Fenton, and indeed perhaps Broome County, is the biggest loser. But rumor has it that NG is looking elsewhere, nearby, for an alternative location. MDN’s sources keep whispering Hancock, NY as a possibility (in Delaware County). We’ve also heard Deposit, NY mentioned (sitting on the border of Broome and Delaware counties, not far from Hancock). MDN remains a top cheerleader to have NG bring their project to MDN’s own neighborhood, truck traffic and all, in the Town of Windsor. Sadly, no word on a Windsor option from our sources. So what did Fenton and surrounding communities achieve with their “victory” in defeating NG’s project in Fenton?…
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NG Advantage Looks Beyond Fenton, NY to Build Virtual Pipeline

In a sad postscript, it appears that NG Advantage, which had once hoped to establish a virtual pipeline operation (compressing natural gas from the Millennium Pipeline) in the Town of Fenton (suburb of Binghamton), has finally given up on building the project in Fenton and is instead looking elsewhere. At least that’s our impression based on a couple of sources. We have no confirmation nor comment from NG–so this is purely our own speculation. However, a local television station in Binghamton recently noticed that NG is loading pipes onto a trailer, moving them out of the former construction site. The Town of Fenton Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) ruled in February that the facility does not qualify as an allowed use under existing zoning regulations (see NG Advantage Loses Zoning Vote for Virtual Pipe Near Binghamton). The Fenton Town Board is in no mood to overrule the ZBA decision, according to Suervisor Dave Hamlin. Case closed–unless NG plans to sue the town to recover costs, or try to force the issue of building the plant–which we don’t see happening. At any rate, MDN has heard scuttlebutt around the virtual water cooler that NG is looking at several other locations–in and out of Broome County. It would be a tremendous loss for Broome if NG locates outside the Greater Binghamton area. Meanwhile, MDN continues to spot XNG trucks (from a virtual pipeline in Susquehanna County, PA) passing through the Vestal, NY area–through densely populated centers–each and every day. They are the very same kind of trucks NG had proposed to use in Fenton. Yet not a peep about the XNG trucks that pass through our community…
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NG Advantage Loses Zoning Vote for Virtual Pipe Near Binghamton

MDN reported on a heated meeting several weeks ago near our home base. The Town of Fenton Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) met to hear arguments against a zoning decision that would allow a proposed virtual pipeline/compressor station from NG Advantage to be zoned as a trucking/freight facility (see NG Advantage Virtual Pipe Hearing in Fenton an Eye-Opener for MDN). We won’t rehash the entire history of this facility and its quest to get built (see our NG Advantage stories here). In brief, after a local court forced NG to reapply for a permit to build the plant, as part of the process NG sought to be recognized as a trucking/freight facility, which is an allowed use for the piece of real estate where they want to build the plant. Local residents, including a local school district which is adamantly opposed to the project, appeared before the ZBA several weeks ago to argue the facility is more than a simple truck/freight facility. It’s also a compressor station that does not conform to the existing ordinance. The ZBA voted Tuesday night and agreed with those opposing the project. In a close 3-2 vote, the ZBA said the facility does not qualify under current land use regulations. So what happens now? NG can do one of three things: (1) appeal the ZBA decision in court, (2) ask the Fenton Town Board to reclassify the land where they want to build–essentially override the local zoning ordinance, or (3) look someplace else. Which option will NG choose?…
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Can Virtual Pipelines Rescue New England from Russian LNG?

The whole story of Russian LNG coming to Boston to help New England with its crisis shortage of natural gas continues to irk us. Although Russia and the Yamal plant where the gas was liquefied were sanctioned under President Obama. However, the actual gas itself was/is not sanctioned, for whatever reason. We have a situation where New England continues to obstinately refuse new natgas pipelines, instead buying LNG from Russia during critical shortages. We’re paying (and depending on) our enemies for natural gas when world-class supplies of it exist a few hundred miles away in the Marcellus. We’ve written about this confounding situation since early January (see our Russian LNG stories here). Last Friday the co-founder of NG Advantage–a “virtual pipeline” company that compresses natural gas from interstate pipelines and transports it, via trucks, to businesses and organizations that want gas but can’t get it via pipelines–wrote an intriguing blog post. Tom Evslin’s post makes a case for using virtual pipelines (i.e. CNG transported by trucks) as an alternative to help alleviate the extreme winter shortages in New England. Could trucked CNG (and LNG) actually eliminate the need for a pipeline to New England? We would argue “no.” However, without a doubt a virtual pipeline could help in certain places and under certain circumstances. Here’s Tom’s argument in favor of using virtual pipelines to alleviate New England’s stubbornly high prices for natural gas, and possibly save us from importing Russian LNG…
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NG Advantage Virtual Pipe Hearing in Fenton an Eye-Opener for MDN

Last night MDN editor Jim Willis attended a Zoning Appeals Board hearing in the Town of Fenton (near Binghamton) where board members held a public hearing on a proposed virtual pipeline (i.e. compressor station) application by NG Advantage. It was, for Jim, a real eye-opener–causing him to reassess previous comments he made about the people opposing the project. Let’s begin with a brief background and the purpose of the hearing. NG previously filed an application with the Town of Fenton to build a natural gas compressor station/trucking facility in the very corner of the township, where it borders other towns/communities (bedroom communities). The people in those adjoining communities, when they learned of the plan, were upset that they had not been notified of the plan. In short order lawsuits were filed, and a county judge ruled that the Town of Fenton Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG’s plan (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). That forced NG to reapply for permits to build the facility. The area is zoned light industrial, allowing certain uses. Among the uses in that area are freight/trucking facilities. Not on the list are compressor stations. A Fenton building inspector researched the issue and agreed (with NG) that the facility fits the definition of a freight/trucking facility. That determination was immediately appealed by a number of people and organizations, including the local Chenango Valley School District. The meeting last night was to hear arguments for and against the finding that the facility is a freight/trucking facility and qualifies as an acceptable use in that zone. There were about 200 or so present for the hearing. Passions ran high. We’d say about three-fourths present were against and one-fourth in favor, judging from applause following various speakers. We will outline the evening and the testimony given below, but right up front we want to apologize to those opposing the project. In previous posts we used strong language to describe them, including the phrase “selfish antis” and the word “bullies.” That was wrong and we retract those statements. While we still disagree with those opposing this facility, we listened closely to their arguments and to their hearts. We found the vast majority speaking against the NG facility were not your typical anti-fossil fuel protesters (although there were a few of those there too). Instead, we found they are simply everyday folks who fervently do not want this facility in their neighborhood for a variety of reasons, including (yes) protection of their children. We heard and appreciate their arguments, and we want to acknowledge their position and attempt to fairly and dispassionately state what that position is…
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Following Constitution Pipe Decision, NY Virtual Pipe Now Vital

1/24/18 Note: We have edited this post to be less incendiary and more respectful of the opposing viewpoint.

Yesterday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected a request by Constitution Pipeline to overrule the (very corrupt) New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation and allow construction of the pipeline to commence (see our lead story today: Death of the Constitution Pipeline? FERC Refuses to Overrule NY DEC). As we report in that story, Williams is not (yet) giving up the hope and dream of building the Constitution. However, given that tree clearing for the pipeline would have to begin now, and be done by the end of March (in order to save the bats–don’t ask), another year will go by before the Constitution could even begin construction. And it will take a year to build. That’s IF Williams prevails in court. In the meantime, businesses in New York State are DESPERATE to receive shipments of natural gas. Major employers in the Southern Tier of New York had planned to tap into the Constitution and use cheap, abundant, clean-burning Marcellus Shale gas from Pennsylvania, saving them money and lowering emissions. Without the Constitution, what can these employers do? Yes, they can leave the state (and some already have). But there is a solution. NG Advantage is planning to build a “virtual pipeline” in the Town of Fenton, on the outer edge of Binghamton, NY (Broome County). A virtual pipeline is a compressor plant (series of compressor plants) that grabs gas from a pipeline–in this case the Millennium Pipeline–and compresses it and loads it onto special tractor trailers that then deliver the gas to industrial customers like manufacturing plants, hospitals, and even small regional gas distribution systems servicing residential homes. NG’s project got derailed last year when a group of residents living nearby sued, stopping the project in its tracks (see Broome Virtual Pipe Project in Limbo, Fenton Board Refuses to Act). The residents claim three trucks per hour going through side streets will negatively alter the neighborhood. It’s bogus. NG is undaunted. They have patiently, calmly and repeatedly reached out to the community to answer questions and address concerns. NG has more than bent over backwards in an attempt to work with community. NG followed the judge’s directive and refiled the project with the Town of Fenton for a second time. There is a Fenton zoning board hearing at 6 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at the Port Crane Fire Department to consider NG’s refiled request. Residents who are opposed are already gearing up to pressure board members. Pro-gas folks need to show up in large numbers to show the zoning board there is support for this vital project. Let’s not let the other side win this one! Jobs in, indeed the future of, the Southern Tier depend on it…
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Broome Virtual Pipe Project in Limbo, Fenton Board Refuses to Act

In early September, a Broome County, NY judge ruled that the Town of Fenton (Binghamton area) Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–what is called a “virtual pipeline” (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). The lawsuit was brought by a local school district, which a Freedom of Information Act request reveals is paying approximately $40,000 in legal fees to high-priced lawyers to win the case, stopping the project (we hope Chenango Valley School District taxpapers appreciate their taxes going up to pay for it, and less money available in the budget to “educate” their precious children). NG must now resubmit the project for approval. On Tuesday night, NG did just that–re-applying to the Fenton Town Planning Board. A meeting was held at the local fire hall where some 250 people showed up. The crowd contained those both for and against the project. Unfortunately two of the seven Planning Board members were not present–possibly having resigned due to extreme pressure from bullying antis. So then there were five. Three of the five voted to become the lead agency to review the project, which is the first step in the process. However, three of seven is not a majority. Which puts the project in limbo, not able to go forward. What happens next?…
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Hey Broome County: Enviros Love NG Advantage’s Virtual Pipeline

As we reported in August, a Broome County, NY judge ruled that the Town of Fenton (Binghamton area) Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–what is called a “virtual pipeline” (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). The judge’s ruling delays the project for months, at least. NG must now resubmit the project for approval by the Fenton Planning Board. Before doing that, NG must first conduct a full environmental impact study and an aquifer study. Even with environmental studies, don’t expect the locals, who appear to have very closed minds, to accept the outcome (see 2nd Approval for Virtual Pipeline in Broome County Not Assured). Some (many?) of the locals have been unduly influenced by charlatans who swoop into town and talk about “bomb trucks” and other nonsense, and then leave town once the locals are hot and bothered and agitated. These out-of-towners are professional agitators–paid by Big Green to do what they do. In a bid to counter the lies and smears pedaled by these people, NG is spreading the news that REAL environmentally-conscious people support NG’s virtual pipeline operations. For example, a dairy farm cooperative in Vermont and a sustainable lettuce and caviar farm in eastern New York are both NG customers and sing the praises of clean-burning, sustainable natural gas deliveries to their operations. Yes, those who actually care about the environment support NG Advantage and virtual pipelines…
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200+ Binghamton-Area Residents Sign Petition Supporting Virtual Pipe

Who knew there was ANYBODY who supported a virtual pipeline project in Broome County, NY?! As MDN recently reported, a Broome County judge ruled that the Town of Fenton (Binghamton area) Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–called a “virtual pipeline” (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). The judge’s ruling delays the project for months at least. NG must now resubmit the project for approval by the Fenton Planning Board. Before doing that, NG must first conduct a full environmental impact study and an aquifer study. Even with environmental studies, don’t expect the locals, who appear to have very closed minds, to accept the outcome. Travel around the community where the project is slated to be built and almost every home within a mile has a “NO COMPRESSOR STATION” sign. Read local news coverage of the issue and you come to the conclusion there isn’t a single soul in the county (apart from MDN editor Jim Willis) who supports the project. NG is out to counter that media narrative. NG has just launched a petition to support the project. And guess what? Already over 200 local residents have signed it. Yeah, there’s likely at least that many against it, but the point is this is not a one-sided issue. People in the community are starting to speak up in support of the project. If you live in the general vicinity, here’s how you can sign the petition…
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2nd Approval for Virtual Pipeline in Broome County Not Assured

As we reported last week, a Broome County, NY judge ruled yesterday that the Town of Fenton (Binghamton area) Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–what is called a “virtual pipeline” (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). The judge’s ruling delays the project for months at least. NG must now resubmit the project for approval by the Fenton Planning Board. Before doing that, NG must first conduct a full environmental impact study and an aquifer study. Even with environmental studies, don’t expect the locals, who appear to have very closed minds, to accept the outcome. That much was clear at a Fenton Planning Board meeting last night. Residents packed the small meeting room to voice their displeasure with the project. Until now the project has enjoyed overwhelming support by the Planning Board and Town of Fenton officials. However, that may be changing. Town of Fenton Supervisor Dave Hamlin said there is “no certainty” that NG’s new, second application will get approved by the Fenton Planning Board…
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Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again

A Broome County, NY judge ruled yesterday that the Town of Fenton Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–what is called a “virtual pipeline.” MDN has chronicled the project from the beginning (see our NG Advantage stories here). Yesterday’s ruling was not an indictment of the project itself by the judge–only the way in which it was approved by the local town planning board. The judge left the door open for the town to re-do it’s approval process–this time including a full environmental impact study and an aquifer study. NG’s CEO Rico Biasetti said that while he is disappointed, the company remains committed to building the facility at the Fenton location and will work with Fenton to try again…
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Making a Strong Case for NG’s Virtual Pipeline Near Binghamton

Somewhat surprising for our local Gannett outlet here in Binghamton (the Press & Sun-Bulletin), but on Sunday the newspaper published two opinion pieces that make a very strong case FOR building a natural gas transfer station (i.e. virtual pipeline) in the Town of Fenton, on the outskirts of Binghamton, by NG Advantage. One of the editorials was written by a resident who lives in the community where the station will get built. The arguments are compelling and destroy the NIMBYism and hysterics of local residents opposed to the project. The other editorial is from the fire chief and emergency management director from a community in New Hampshire that has two facilities to decompress gas delivered by NG Advantage. He speaks about the safety of the trucks and the gas carried on them. Bottom line: This facility is safe, the trucks hauling the gas are safe, and it’s good for the economy. There’s absolutely no reason why it should not get built in Fenton (near Binghamton)…
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Judge Hears Arguments For/Against Broome Virtual Pipe, Delay Stays

Yesterday both sides were in court in Broome County, NY to put forward their best arguments for why a natural gas transfer station (i.e. virtual pipeline) project in the Town of Fenton, near Binghamton, should (or should not) get built. We’ve covered this story from the beginning–because we like virtual pipelines which get natural gas to customers who aren’t blessed to live near a pipeline, and because we live about 10 miles from the proposed site. NG Advantage wants to build a virtual pipeline operation in a suburb of Binghamton. The location NG picked, after considering up to six other locations in the region, was selected because of it’s proximity to major highways, proximity to the Millennium Pipeline, and availability of high-power electric lines. A virtual pipeline is nothing more than a compressor plant (series of compressor plants) that grabs gas from a pipeline, in this case the Millennium, and compresses it and loads it onto special tractor trailers that then deliver the gas to industrial customers like manufacturing plants, hospitals, and even small regional gas distribution systems servicing residential homes. The location NG selected, in the Town of Fenton (within spitting distance of residential communities Hillcrest and Port Dickinson) was approved by the Town of Fenton after a detailed review. The area NG selected is zoned industrial and is, in fact, a former dump site. However, residents from nearby neighborhoods in Hillcrest and Port Dick were not aware of the project (so they claim) and when construction began to clear the dump site, and residents learned what was going to be built at the site, some of them demanded court action to oppose it. Two court cases have been filed and a local judge has temporarily stopped construction at the site. Yesterday that judge heard arguments for and against. NG Advantage CEO Rico Biasetti was encouraged by the judges questions…
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Update on NG Advantage Virtual Pipeline near Binghamton

What’s the latest with the proposed virtual pipeline in Broome County, NY? NG Advantage wants to build a “virtual pipeline” operation in a suburb of Binghamton. The location NG picked, after considering up to six locations in the region, was selected because of it’s proximity to major highways, proximity to the Millennium Pipeline, and availability of high-power electric lines. A virtual pipeline is nothing more than a compressor plant (series of compressor plants) that grabs gas from a pipeline, in this case the Millennium, and compresses it and loads it onto special tractor trailers that then deliver the gas to industrial customers like manufacturing plants, hospitals, and even small regional gas distribution systems servicing residential homes. The location NG selected, in the Town of Fenton (within spitting distance of Hillcrest and Port Dickinson) was approved by the Town of Fenton after a detailed review. The area they selected is zoned industrial and is, in fact, a former dump site. However, residents from nearby neighborhoods (Hillcrest and Port Dick) were not aware of the project (so they claim) and when construction began to clear the dump site, and residents learned what was going to be built at the site, some of them demanded court action to oppose it. So far we’ve had two court cases asking county-level court (called “Supreme Court” in NY) to stop the project, which it temporarily has. And there we sit–waiting on a local court. When traveling through the neighborhoods near the site you see plenty of “No Compressor Station” signs. Ask any of the locals why they oppose it and the issue pretty much centers on truck traffic. The plant itself is safe. It doesn’t emit anything in the way of air pollution. It’s quiet–running on electric motors. The only thing people have to complain about is 3-4 trucks an hour going in and out of the plant. That’s it. But that’s enough to warrant a major fuss. The very latest is that State Senator Fred Akshar and Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, both of whom represent people in the Town of Fenton, visited the NG Advantage facility in Vermont last week–a facility similar to the one proposed for Fenton. They wanted to see it for themselves. Neither rep really has a say in what will happen in Fenton (the matter is in the courts at this point), but at least they informed themselves about the issue and can talk, rationally, with some of their irrational constituents…
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Broome “Titanic” County Desperately Needs NGA Virtual Pipeline

Recently Broome County (NY) Executive Jason Garner sounded the alarm about county finances. He compared Broome County’s economic situation to the Titanic. The New York State Comptroller’s office issued a report in September 2016 that said Broome County has been in fiscal stress over the past three years. Thank you Gov. Cuomo for banning fracking–the one thing that could have pulled us out of the hole. With all of the bad news, you would think Broome County would be a cheerleader for a proposed “virtual pipeline” project from NG Advantage, planned for the Town of Fenton in a Binghamton suburb. In fact, Fenton approved the project (after a detailed review), and construction began in June (see NG Advantage Virtual Pipe “Done Deal” in Broome County, Antis Stymied). However, when the county weighed in on the NG Advantage project, back in May, it recommended against building the project (see NG Advantage Virtual Pipeline May be Coming to MDN’s Backyard). Isn’t that just like Broome County? We’re sinking (yes, MDN editor Jim Willis lives and writes MDN from Broome County), the County Executive sounds the alarm, yet the county wants to deny a project that will bring 150 full-time jobs and millions in tax revenue to county coffers. The irony was not wasted on NG Advantage, which issued this statement following Garner’s economic pronouncement that we’re sitting on the Titanic here in Broome County…
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