First Posted: 5/23/2014
A $3 million natural gas pipeline expansion project is planned to bring over 20 miles of 30-inch pipe to Wyoming County, affecting about 164 county landowners.
The Atlantic Sunrise Project, an expansion of Tulsa, Oklahoma-based energy company Williams’ Transco Pipeline, will travel from Luzerne County into Monroe Township, running for about half a mile there before crossing 4.7 miles of North Moreland Township, 2.4 miles of Eaton Township, 2.9 miles in Falls, 3.6 miles in Overfield Township, skirting around Factoryville while crossing 4.2 miles in Clinton Township before heading through 4.2 miles in Nicholson and into Susquehanna County.
The project, which generated a large amount of public interest in Luzerne County, will be presented to the community at a meeting scheduled for June 3 at Keystone College in La Plume from 6 to 8 p.m., the next in a series of workshops planned by Williams in order to interact with landowners and work out any potential conflicts. The first, held in Luzerne County, attracted a crowd of 200 people, according to Williams spokesman Christopher Stockton. The second, held in Lycoming County, was attended by at 75 people and about 50 showed for a meeting in Clinton Township.
Tom and Joan Byron, Dallas landowners whose property the new pipeline is planned to cross, said prior to the Luzerne County open house that while they are not necessarily “against” the Williams company, pipelines in general or the use of natural gas, they feel the proposed route for the expansion was poorly planned.
“They say they want to do what will leave the least impact,” Tom said. “But I’m looking at maps and there are areas that would be less impact.”
The couple was also concerned about the lack of information initially presented to them and the timing in which they received it.
“In order to plan the Atlantic Sunrise Project,” Tom said, “they’ve been working on this for years. And we just hear about it through a phone call from somebody we’ve never heard of, and they say, ‘we may be using your property.’”
Stockton said the meetings are, so far, going well and accomplishing their goal.
“Generally speaking, the tone was very neutral,” he said, adding many people showed up out of curiosity and were anxious to get a look at the detailed project maps on display.
General maps and information about the project are available on the company’s website at atlanticsunriseexpansion.com.
The project is currently in its preliminary stage, however, with everything on the maps subject to change.
“If what we have down on the map isn’t the best location,” Stockton said, “show us where a better place to put it would be. It’s not a monologue, its a dialogue. We got lots of good feedback and participation, and that’s the goal. If we went out there and nobody showed up, that would not be good.”
The open dialogue, Stockton hopes, will eliminate the possibility of Williams obtaining land easements via eminent domain - the controversial method of expropriating private property for public benefit, with compensation.
“We try to avoid that at all costs,” Stockton said. “We’re not buying their land and that’s important to note. They still retain ownership. All we are obtaining is the right to install the pipes and go in and maintain them.”
The need for the expansion comes from a major growth in the Marcellus region natural gas industry. The existing Transco pipeline operates from east to west, from Philadelphia to the Clinton and Potter Counties area. Because of new Marcellus shale discoveries, that line is currently a “major artery” for gas entering the system — Stockton said the company went from getting 225 million cubic feet a day to 3.5 billion cubic feet a day.
“We connect with New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.,” he said. “All the way up and down the East Coast, we provide major gas supplies to all these utilities and power plants. So what’s happening is that we have this existing infrastructure that’s full and we have all these producers in the area who want to be able to transport gas on our system.”
The Atlantic Sunrise Project, which is the largest expansion in the company’s history to the present time, according to Stockton, will allow Marcellus gas to be carried as far as Alabama, which no other pipeline has yet accomplished.
“What’s happened in recent years,” he said, “is we’ve seen a shift. And now, we’ve reached the tipping point where we actually get more of our gas from the Pennsylvania area than we do from the Gulf of Mexico. So we’re turning our pipeline around and making it what’s called ‘bi-directional.’ And that means that, where normally we would just flow gas from south to north, now we’re going to start flowing gas from north to south.”
The next step for the project, after the current pre-filing process, is the filing of an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as it is an interstate pipeline.
The company’s preliminary schedule, according to it’s website, began this Spring with field surveys and open houses and continues in early 2015 with the FERC application, anticipating construction in summer 2016 with a late 2017 target in-service.