LA PLUME — Portions of Northeastern Pennsylvania may experience a lot of change in the coming years due to the Atlantic Sunrise Project, a $3 billion project to install a natural gas pipeline from the Marcellus-rich Susquehanna County through Luzerne and Wyoming Counties and connect to the Transco Pipeline.
Over 200 people attended a public open house Tuesday night in the Theatre in Brooks at Keystone College in La Plume where representatives from Williams, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based energy company, were on hand to answer questions for landowners and members of the community about the proposed new pipeline.
According to Williams spokesman Christopher Stockton, the proposed Central Penn North Pipeline will run through approximately 26 miles in Wyoming County, possibly affecting about 175 land owners including areas in Overfield, Clinton, and Nicholson Townships.
Large maps were sprawled over tables as community members and landowners shuffled through the maze of tables, searching for where their properties fell on the newly-proposed pipeline.
Stockton said the goal of the open house was to, “create a dialogue” so individuals can provide Williams feedback regarding the locations of the proposed Central Penn North Pipeline.
“The objective is to hook the landowners up to the experts so we can flush out routing issues,” he said.
Some landowners were more apt to discuss whether or not they believed the pipeline addition should be taking place at all, rather than its proposed locations throughout Wyoming County.
Victor Choplosky, a Nicholson Township Supervisor in attendance said he is, “all for it [the installation of the pipeline extension],” and he believes the pipeline expansion will be, “good for the economy” of the surrounding areas.
Sandra Walters and her husband bought land in Nicholson Township and Clinton Township in November 2013, before they were aware of the pipeline expansion.
“I am not happy,” she said. Walters is concerned for how the pipeline will affect the surrounding environment, including the wildlife and beauty of the area.
“We bought the property to keep it like it is,” she said.
Walters said she and her husband are debating whether or not to sell the land they just purchased.
Jennifer Kerrigan, a project manager for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said part of FERC’s involvement in the process is to identify and disclose the environmental impacts of the project regarding construction and operation of the pipeline.
According to Kerrigan, the project will no doubt impact the land, streams, potentially the groundwater with nearby wells, wildlife and vegetation, cultural resources, land use changes, air quality and noise, reliability and safety.
Stockton confirmed Williams is in the process of completing environmental wetland, archaeological, surveys throughout the area to gather data to identify potential issues and make adjustments to the route based on the findings.
Williams also creates and submits environmental resource reports to FERC, which are evaluated and verified by the FERC in the agency’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Williams will complete resource reports on water use and quality, fish, vegetation, and wildlife, cultural resources, socioeconomics, and more, according to Mike Donnelly with Ecology and Environment Inc.
Once the EIS is complete, Kerrigan said, FERC opens the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) scoping period to obtain public comment on the project.
“(FERC) Trying to make (the project’s impacts) as open and transparent as possible,” Kerrigan said.
FERC’s EIS is utilized to ensure the agency makes informed decisions regarding the proposed pipeline’s environmental impact.
“All this is, is a line on a piece of paper,” said Stockton, who said Williams has the ability to make proposed location adjustments so when the energy company files for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from FERC in early 2015, the certificate will reflect the feedback from the community.
Stockton explained the Transco gas line currently transports about 10 percent of the nations’ natural gas to utility companies up and down the east coast. Transco was built in the 1950s with the natural gas supply running from the Gulf of Mexico to the north.
With the Atlantic Sunrise Project and the addition of the Central Penn Line North, Williams intends to shift the flow of gas to run from north to south,. Utility plants as far as Alabama will receive Pennsylvania gas cheaper than obtaining gas from the Gulf of Mexico because of the vast supply.
The pipeline extension will, “create capacity to get the supply to the market,” Stockton said, explaining once the Marcellus Shale gas is transported into the Transco system, “It [natural gas] could go to New York, Philadelphia, anywhere up and down the east coast.”
For Harry and Joyce Colvin who own property in Clinton Township, near Little Rocky Glen, the open house offered an opportunity to take in a lot of information.
“It’s a big shock,” Joyce said.
“People just want information. It’s a good opportunity for everyone to ask questions and understand the process,” Williams Engineer John Wells said.
Williams will host the next open house June 4 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the Wayside Inn, 6638 State Route 61 in Shamokin and June 5 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the Bloomsburg Fire Department Social Hall in Bloomsburg. A full listing of open houses is available on Williams’ website.