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Pennsylvanians Getting Pipeline Fatigue, Governor Tells FERC

The Marcellus Shale has been great, and Pennsylvanians don't mind too much the associated pipeline development, but tight coordination of multiple projects is necessary, and better communication with communities would be appreciated, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett told FERC last week in comments on the Williams Transco Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project.

"...[W]e must be very mindful and sensitive to the issues of local communities affected by this development," Corbett said in his Aug. 18 letter, which became available on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website Monday. "The significant increase in infrastructure development to transport natural gas to markets raises unique concerns and questions for communities who host these pipelines."

The governor asked the Commission to seek the most coordination possible among proposed pipeline projects that would turn dirt in his state. "Given the agency's regulatory responsibility and unique vantage point of being aware of other potential projects, I believe FERC is best situated to consider these factors as you continue your review of this proposed project."

Corbett said constituents with property along the Atlantic Sunrise route have contacted him with environmental, public safety and property value concerns. "A portion of this project is proposed through areas of preserved farmland in the commonwealth, where the state has worked in partnership with local elected officials and farmers to permanently protect land for agricultural use," he wrote. Residents have also been asking what they will get out of the Atlantic Sunrise project, Corbett told FERC.

"These are reasonable and and practical questions, and while residents understand the general need to develop infrastructure to move energy resources to market, they have important questions regarding exactly where that infrastructure is located and what steps are being taken or considered to provide opportunities for tangible and direct local benefit from any project."

Atlantic Sunrise would provide service from various points along Transco's Leidy Line and from northern Susquehanna County, PA, to as far south as Transco's Zone 4 and 4A Pools at Station 85 in Choctaw County, AL. The gas carried would serve demand centers on the Atlantic Seaboard. The project would include incremental mainline facilities and a "substantial greenfield pipeline," referred to as the Central Penn Line. Firm service is expected to be available during the second half of 2017. In February, Transco said it has binding commitments from nine shippers for 100% of 1.7 million Dth/d of firm capacity on the pipeline (see Shale Daily, Feb. 20).

Transco General Manager Frank Ferazzi told NGI that Transco began communicating with landowners early in the Atlantic Sunrise project.

"We've already adjusted the route by some 20% to address some of these landowner issues and suspect that that percentage will go up over time," Ferazzi said. "We have had a history of building a lot of infrastructure on Transco, but we've also had a history of working with regulators, working with politicians and working with landowners to do it in a least disruptive way as we possibly can. And, of course, FERC's role in the process is to take a look at all the facts...and determine whether the project is in the public interest..."

Earlier this month, 16 people spoke at a local FERC hearing on Atlantic Sunrise, according to a report by the Republican Herald newspaper of Pottsville, PA. Only two of the speakers were supportive of the project, the paper said. Opponents raised objections to the potential liquefaction and export of the Marcellus gas that would be shipped on the pipeline. Comments filed with the Commission also raise concerns about a potential increase in the use of hydraulic fracturing to produce more gas.

Commenter Ronald Laughlin of Elizabethtown, PA, told FERC in his letter that while Williams did change the proposed Atlantic Sunrise route to avoid impacting "some rare natural areas," the impact of the project is still significant as the pipeline would run through "prime agricultural" land.

"There are existing pipeline right-a-ways [sic] in place which could be used to place a new pipeline rather than disturbing new areas," Laughlin wrote. "The only cost-benefit to placing the new pipeline in its proposed route is to the Williams Company, not to the people of Lancaster County.

"All information indicates that the natural gas that would be transported through the county will be shipped out of the area, probably to foreign countries, so it not only does not benefit Lancaster County to have this pipeline, it may well not benefit the U.S. energy situation."

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