Area residents question pipeline construction project

HUGHESVILLE – Several dozen area residents turned out Wednesday evening at the volunteer firefighters social hall here to question government and industry officials about the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Lycoming County.

Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., also known as Transco, is proposing the pipeline to deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania to mid-Atlantic and southeastern U.S. markets.

Transco is controlled by Williams Partners, headquartered in Houston, Texas.

If approved, construction would begin in 2016.

But first, the company must file a plan with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

As part of the pre-filing process, it must gain input from citizens, government entities and other interested parties, including through such forums as Wednesday night’s town hall meeting.

“It’s a three-year regulatory process,” said Christopher Stockton, a Transcontinental Gas spokesman. “We are gathering data now.”

Stockton noted that 33 percent of all electricity is produced from natural gas.

Company and regulatory commission officials met directly with landowners to address their concerns about the pipeline.

People had the opportunity to scrutinize maps revealing the proposed route of the pipeline as well as specific properties where it would traverse.

Lucille Mingle said she was concerned about the possible removal of trees from her Penn Township property.

Robert Boyles said it’s difficult to know how the pipeline will affect landowners.

“They are not going to do anything for two years,” he said. “By then, it could be a whole different ball game.”

Boyles, who operates several farms in Franklin Township, said he’s concerned that fencing used to keep in cattle would be cut away to make way for the pipeline.

He said he hates to think about replacing fencing.

He’d be happy, he said, if the pipeline didn’t go in at all.

Michael Guinta, of Penn Township, said he showed up at the town hall meeting to gather information.

For now, he’s happy with the way things have gone.

“I want to make sure the land is not contaminated by machinery,” he said.

Dean Marshall, of Benton, made it clear he has plenty of concerns about a pipeline. Once put in, the pipeline will introduce more unwanted drilling for natural gas to the area, including in state and national parks, he said.

Other people affiliated with the grassroots organization, Shale Field Organization Committee, attended the meeting to hand out literature expressing concerns about the possible impact to the environment and the health and well-being of residents.

“I think everyone is just trying to get information,” said Sierra May, an intern with the group.

Additional public town halls are expected to be held through June 11 at various other sites in the region.

Company officials noted the project still is in the planning stages and precise design and configuration of the pipeline have not been finalized.

An application for the project is expected to be filed with FERC in March 2015.