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Court Rules Against Planning Board In Controversial Fenton Compressor Station

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A Broome County Supreme Court judge has ruled a Vermont-based company's plan to construct a natural gas filling station in Fenton is invalid after finding several missteps in how the town's planning board approved the project.

On Monday, Judge Ferris Lebous found the Fenton Planning Board did not follow state regulations when it reviewed and approved Vermont-based NG Advantage's plan. 

The ruling is in response to two lawsuits filed against the company and the Fenton Planning Board by the Chenango Valley School District and a group of residents.

Time of Project
Court records show Lebous found the Fenton Planning Board violated the DEC's State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) by not classifying the project "as soon as possible."

After finding the Planning Board improperly classified the project at an April 11, 2017, meeting, calling the decision "arbitrary and capricious." This was voided in Monday's decision.

The "Unclassified" designation rather than a "Type I" meant  NG Advantage would not have to conduct an in-depth environmental impact study (EIS).

April 11, 2017 Meeting
Another action ruled as "arbitrary and capricious" was the Planning Board unanimous vote to make itself the Lead agency on the project. The court also found the proof "unequivocal" that there was no coordinated review with other agencies, including Broome County, NYSDEC, and Port Dickinson, as required by state law.

And the court could not find any evidence the Planning Board gave the project a "hard look" before voting that same night that it would not have a negative impact on the environment under SEQRA guidelines, which the court nullified. That decision cleared NG Advantage from having to conduct the EIS.

Aquifer Study
As Fox 40 News first reported the Planning Board did not require NG Advantage to conduct an aquifer study, also required under state law. Another lapse pointed out in court documents.

Next Steps

NG Advantage released the following statement following Monday's ruling:

"While we are disappointed with today’s decision, NG Advantage stands committed to this project and its location in Fenton. We will immediately begin the approval process again and hope this only causes a minor delay. NG Advantage is dedicated to being a good community partner to the town of Fenton — helping the local economy grow with new jobs and tax revenues, and bringing safer, cleaner energy to the area. This delay in our progress is frustrating, but we remain confident that the project will be approved and we will soon be part of the Fenton community. 

"It’s important to remember that today’s case was between the Town of Fenton Planning Board and the Chenango Valley School District. The decision made today was against the town’s approval process—not our company, our project, or the location."

One of the Article 78 Petitioners for the community, Maureen Singer had this to say following the decision:

"I am very encouraged, I know our entire group is also very encouraged with the decision that Judge Lebous came to pertaining to the Town of Fenton and NG Advantage decision and the manner in which they approved the site plan at the West Service Road."

"I certainly plan to continue opposing any facility of this nature being positioned on the West Service Road or anywhere in close proximity to our homes, schools, parks, water sources. It's not an appropriate site for a massive natural gas facility and I think that was clear to the judge and I think it was obvious that it was passed through without the necessary oversight and involvement from the DEC. I assume they will present this again to the Town of Fenton Planning Board, we'll continue to present the Town of Fenton with our position."

You can read the full decision below: