The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

June 4, 2014

Pros, cons of proposed natural gas piping analyzed at workshop

WEIGH SCALES — Opponents of the Atlantic Sunrise Project are worried the nearly 10 miles of new natural gas piping in Northumberland County will harm the environment and expose property owners to unnecessary risks, but the project coordinators say they are taking all required precautions.

Representatives of anti-fracking coalition Shale Justice and Columbia County Pipeline Awareness distributed information outside the Wednesday night public workshop hosted by Williams Partners L.P., of Wilkes-Barre, at the Wayside Inn, Route 61.

“I am concerned about clean air, clean water and clean soil. This area is likely to be debilitated by this pipeline,” Mark Heuer said.

Dean Marshall is worried the area will be exposed to wastewater and radioactive material in the name of profit.

However, according to Williams environmental project manager Anne Allen, the approximately 178 miles of new greenfield pipe through Sullivan, Columbia, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Lebanon and Lancaster counties is subject to strict regulatory guidelines from the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“We analyze everything. What is our impact and how do we mitigate that?” she said.

Allen described multiple land surveys, environmental tests and species impact surveys that Williams must perform before the project is approved by the FERC, which is expected in 2016.

According to project maps, the piping is set to enter Northumberland County from Columbia County in Ralpho Township. It would head south across Berks Road and then School Road and then enter Coal Township. It would cross Route 2026 and then head south until it would cross Route 61 near the Wal-Mart store. It would continue south until it crosses Route 901, head through the back end of the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area and cross into East Cameron Township. After it would cross Upper Road (Route 2044), it would enter Schuylkill County.

The area of the project is subject to change, and it’s expected to be finalized by October, Allen said.

Allen said the easements are fair and often “above and beyond” what the property is valued at. For example, she said farmers are compensated 100 percent of their crop income in the first year.

Thirty-three land owners would be affected by the project, she said.

Wednesday’s meeting, which was one of 10 scheduled in May and June across the affected counties, was open to the public and designed to provide residents with an opportunity to meet project personnel, review maps, learn more about the regulatory process, ask questions and provide feedback.

Neil Masser, who owns land in East Cameron Township that would be 1.3 miles away from the pipeline, said he wished the pipeline came through his property.

He already has a Sonoco pipeline crossing his farm, and his parents used the easement money to vacation in South America years ago.

The pipeline there never gave the family any trouble, Masser said.

Doug Haupt, PPL senior right-of-way specialist, was satisfied with the answers he received from Williams representatives.

Some PPL high voltage lines run near the pipeline, and Haupt wanted to be sure the two utilities were working together so PPL can “continue to provide reliable electric service,” he said.

Due to the boom of the Marcellus Shale gas industry, Williams Partners is in the preliminary stages of expanding its Transco pipeline system along the Central Penn Line and installing two new pipeline loops along the existing Transco pipeline, totaling about 15 miles along the Grugan Loop and Unity Loop, 2 1/2 miles of existing pipeline replacement and two new compressor facilities in Pennsylvania.

On April 1, Williams Partners submitted its prefiling request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Atlantic Sunrise Project.

According to the project website, the $2.1 billion project is “designed to help ‘debottleneck’ pipeline capacity constraints that lead to higher energy bills, while allowing Williams to continue to ensure reliable natural gas service.”

The project is expected to add 1.7 million dekatherms per day of pipeline capacity, which is enough natural gas to meet the daily needs of more than 7 million American homes, and will connect producing regions in northeastern Pennsylvania to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and southeastern states, as far south as Georgia and Alabama.

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