In response to public criticism, a company seeking to build a new natural gas pipeline through parts of north and central Pennsylvania has proposed changes to part of the route to avoid several nature preserves in Lancaster County.
More than 1,000 people turned out to Millersville University Wednesday night for a public meeting hosted by Oklahoma-based Williams Partners. The company is seeking to transport natural gas from Pennsylvania to markets along the Eastern Seaboard as part of its $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise expansion project.
It’s part of a larger effort to rearrange the flow of gas pipeline systems southward to accommodate the rapid growth of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
Williams operates the Transco system which has over 10,000 miles of existing pipeline moving gas to other businesses like utility companies and power plants.
Spokesman Chris Stockton says Williams is revising its plans to keep off the Lancaster County Conservancy’s Tucquan Glen and Shenk’s Ferry preserves.
“We’ve actually developed a route that avoids those areas now,” he says. “It is a direct result of the feedback we’ve heard so far.”
The new proposed route would still cut through a portion of Steinman Run Preserve, according to Conservancy and county officials.Over the past few weeks, nearly 1,000 people have attended Williams’ nine other public meetings in communities affected by the project– including Lycoming, Clinton, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Northumberland, Columbia, Schuylkill and Lebanon counties.
The pipeline has faced its fiercest opposition in Lancaster County.
Several dozen protesters briefly disrupted the meeting, by staging a sit-in and chanting “Go home Williams!”
Other residents criticized the format of the meeting. There was no formal presentation from Williams, but the company had employees on hand with maps answering questions.
“I thought it was going to more of a question-and-answer format,” says Adrienne Boulliane of West Lancaster Township. “I thought Williams would present their case, someone could oppose it, and we’d hear differing views.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is charged with siting the placement of interstate pipelines.
FERC is planning to hold public meetings on the Atlantic Sunrise project later this summer, but has not announced dates yet. If approved, the pipeline could be operational by 2017.
See the proposed changes in Lancaster County (note: original route is green; new route is pink).