As West Wyoming officials prepare to discuss a proposed pipeline gate station with the state Public Utilities Commission today, opponents contend UGI Energy Services is using backdoor methods to avoid zoning regulations and state standards.
UGI Penn Natural Gas has petitioned the PUC for permission to build a gate station is to measure natural gas from the Auburn Pipeline — now under construction by its sister company, UGI Energy Services — before it enters the Transco international pipeline.
A woman who lives along Bunker Hill Road near the proposed site said by using its sister company, Penn Natural Gas — a public utility provider — UGI is able to build the gate station without obtaining zoning allowances and avoids state Department of Environmental Protection oversight because a utility directly serves consumers and is not held to these standards.
Maria Dubiel called it unprecedented how UGI Energy Services is using Penn Natural Gas.
A UGI spokesman said this is a false impression that stems from a misunderstanding about gate stations. He said people often confuse gate stations with much larger compressor stations used for moving gas through pipelines.
“That’s simply untrue,” said Joe Swope, communications manager for UGI.
Swope said there are more than 100 UGI-operated gate stations in Pennsylvania managed by the utility provider. He said a gate station is a necessary part of the utility’s gas distribution and falls under its purview. Swope said some gate stations may be run by Energy Services, but they are not used for distribution to customers.
The gas from the Auburn Pipeline will be distributed to West Wyoming and Wilkes-Barre customers, bringing multimillion-dollar savings over the course of the multi-year leasing contract, because gas will come from local sources instead of the Gulf Coast, Swope said.
He was unsure of the contract’s length and could not estimate savings per household. He said because the gate station will be used only for distribution, its construction and management fall under PUC oversight.
At the beginning of April, Swope and a UGI project manager, Bruce Davis, led reporters through the Monument Gate Station along Wyoming Avenue to explain its harmless nature, calling it environmentally benign.
Dubiel said reports following the tour failed to show just how the new station will work because the existing station has a specific purpose, reducing pressure for distribution. The new station will put gas into the pipeline. She also said the Monument Station is an outdated, much smaller example.
“To show someone a 1953 facility is outrageous. It’s apples and oranges,” Dubiel said.
She said she is not against a gate station, only the backhanded way it appears that UGI is doing it.
“We’re not saying you can’t build this. We’re saying follow the rules.”
Swope explained that at a gate station, pipes come out of the ground, pass through a gauge to measure pressure and flow, and back into the ground. Structures are built over the exposed pipe to keep weather out. He said these stations are environmentally harmless, giving off emissions that are too minimal for concern.
Dubiel said she believes the four structures to be built on a 3.2-acre plot adjacent to PPL power lines near Bunker Hill Road have been downplayed and they are, in fact, much larger than UGI officials have let on.
From plans she requested, Dubiel said the four buildings are each to be 10 feet tall and sit in a 1-acre fenced-in area with the following dimensions:
• 14 feet wide and 24 feet long
• 20 feet wide and 46 feet long
• 12 feet wide and 12 feet long
• 12 feet wide and 24 feet long
The Auburn Pipeline will pass through Kingston Township and, because the gate station’s location is more accessible from the Back Mountain, the Shavertown and Trucksville fire departments will respond in an emergency, Township Manager Kathleen Sebastian confirmed.
Swope said a private, direct-access road will be cut to the gate station and used for its construction and maintenance. He said, barring no serious delay, UGI expects the project to be finished by October this year.
Sebastian said she has no concerns that the station is inside the township’s coverage area. Sebastian said the company already briefed emergency teams on the pipeline project and said she is confident the energy provider will follow up with proper training.
In Pennsylvania, there have been 32 total pipeline-related accidents, three injuries and no fatalities since 2003, according to federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reports.