Landowners speak out against pipeline project

ANNVILLE -- Garry Gross said he almost did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission because the project seemed like “a done deal.”

But the Pine Grove Township man said he thought about the effect the pipeline would have on the six acres of woods that he and his wife built a house on.

Gross was among the more than a dozen and a half speakers at a public input session held at Lutz Hall on the Lebanon Valley College campus. Like most who spoke at the session, he voiced his opposition to the proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through the middle of Lebanon County.

Like many of those speaking against the project, Gross received sustained applause from the audience of several hundred people.

Williams Partners plans to build a 27-mile, high pressure, underground natural gas pipeline across the county.

The pipeline, called Central Penn Line South, is part of Williams’ $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise project designed to connect its pipeline in shale-gas rich western Pennsylvania to its distribution network running from New York to the Texas Gulf Coast. The connecting pipeline would run from north to south and pass through several counties, including Lebanon, Lancaster, and Schuylkill.

The proposed path of the pipeline would enter Lebanon County from Pine Grove Township in Schuylkill County near Swatara State Park in Union Township, and continue south through East Hanover, North Annville, South Annville and South Londonderry townships before entering Lancaster County at Lawn. In all it would cross beneath the land of more than 200 property owners.

Gross said Williams Partners wants to cut down three-quarters of an acre of the woods on his land, offering him $4,200. But he said his property is worth $280,000.

One of his concerns is that his property is located in a rural preservation area, which restricts the amount of trees that can be cut down on his land. If Williams Partners took that three-quarters of an acre of woods, it would violate his preservation designation.

Other speakers said the proposed pipeline could harm the county’s agriculture.

Dairy farmer James Heffler said the planned route would divide his farm.

“This pipeline is 150 feet from my barn,” he said.

He said construction of the line will disrupt the health of soil for years to come.

“This soil is how I make my living and I’m very upset,” said Heffler, who has 250 dairy cows on his farm.

Heffler also said many of the farms in the line of the pipeline are preserved farms.

“Is this in the public good?” he asked.

He said Williams Partners should update its existing pipeline instead of building a new one.

Doug Lorenzo of Mt. Gretna said he was concerned about the monitoring of gas leaks. He said he has read in the Huffington Post that only one of 20 spills are detected. He said Williams Partners should use double-wall piping that would be safer than a single wall pipeline. He said a double-wall pipeline would cost 1.27 times the cost of the single wall line.

Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz, who is also president of the Swatara Creek Watershed Association, said her concerns include the effect the pipeline might have on Swatara Creek, the source of drinking water for thousands of county residents.

If Williams Partners opened a sinkhole that drained Swatara Creek, it would affect tens of thousands of county residents, she said.

Litz said she was also concerned about the effect the pipeline will have on farms. She said farmers could see reduced crop yields if disrupted spoil is not properly put back in place.

She also told FERC representatives that Williams Partners should build the pipeline on their existing pipeline rights of way.

Sam Koplinka-Loehr, from Clean Aircouncil in Philadelphia, said the $3 billion that Williams Partners plans to spend on the project would be better spent on renewable energy sources, such as solar. He said his concerns about the project include health impacts, air quality and greenhouse gases that he says the project will produce.

Ann Pinca, from Lebanon Pipeline Awareness, which is opposed to the project, told the audience of several hundred people that they could make their opposition heard.

“This is not good for us and it is not good for our country,” she said about the project.

But not all the comments were negative about the proposed project.

Gordon Tomb of Annville, a senior fellow for the Commonwealth Foundation, said the foundation supports the expansion of the natural gas delivery system, such as the Atlantic Sunrise Expansion Project proposed by Williams Partners.

“Projects like the pipeline and the resultant access to new markets will ensure that the has resource is further developed in the coming decades,” Tomb said.

He said the Marcellus Shale gas industry is a long-term boom to the state and national economy.

“Having lived through the decline of the steel industry and manufacturing in general, I and many other Pennsylvanians welcome the infusion of capital into our state,” he said.

Wayne Norris, president of Dura-Bond Industries, which operates the Bethlehem steel mill in Steelton, said his company has had a longstanding business relationship with Williams Partners. His company manufactures steel pipe for the natural gas indutstry.

Norris said the Steelton plant employs 250 workers, many of them from Lebanon County.

He said Williams Partners has “some of the most stringent specifications” for the manufacture of gas pipeline.

First Published August 5, 2014 8:00 PM

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