Williams starts discussion for proposed pipeline expansion

First Posted: 5/19/2014

One thing is certain about the impending pipeline expansion project in the works for the Back Mountain – it’s going to take a while.

Dozens of representatives from Williams, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based company that operates the Transcontinental Pipeline Co. (Transco), converged on the Back Mountain last week to speak with residents and officials about the $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise expansion project.

Due to the size and scope of the massive project, Williams officials don’t plan to file a formal application until next year, and, if everything runs smoothly, the pipeline will not be complete until late 2017.

For the first time since the Transcontinental Pipeline was built in the 1950s to transport gas from the Gulf of Mexico region to New York City, operators need to send gas the other way.

The Atlantic Sunrise Project is to ship natural gas harvested by the Marcellus Shale industry to utility companies in southern states, companies that buy gas from drilling companies in Pennsylvania.

Williams representatives held the first of 10 open houses at Lake-Lehman High School on May 20 to get feedback from the public and explain details of the project estimated to pass through 154 properties in Luzerne County.

And on Tuesday, they met with Dallas Township supervisors to answer questions specific to the township, where much of the pipeline will not follow existing routes.

There had been a miscommunication to the township that a metering station was to be built inside the township; however, Christopher Springer, project director for Atlantic Sunrise, said it’s possible shut-off valves will be installed in the township.

No metering stations are planned for the township.

The expansion will enable Williams to transport an additional 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day and includes 56 miles of 30-inch pipeline from Susquehanna County to Columbia County. This pipeline will pass through Ross, Lake, Fairmount, Lehman and Dallas townships in Luzerne County.

Williams first must file for and receive a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) before it can expand or modify its facilities.

With the project still in the pre-filing stages, Williams must prove it has sufficient need to build the pipeline and that its construction will bring no significant environmental impact.

The open houses also are required by FERC.

With pledges and contracts for gas from Marcellus shale drillers, the Atlantic Sunrise is at 100 percent capacity, according to Jennifer Kerrigan, FERC’s project manager for Atlantic Sunrise.

The FERC approval would give Williams the power to use eminent domain to purchase easements on properties from resistant landowners.

But Stockton said they work to avoid eminent domain and, out of all their projects, only about five percent of them have needed legal action to obtain easements as a last resort.

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