Monday Morning Pipeline News – April 15, 2013

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RIGHT-TO-KNOW

Residents interested in examining any of the emails or other public records described in the document inventory should contact the Borough to arrange an appointment to review the originals.

I plan to continue investigating and updating the inventory over the next few weeks, with less emphasis on detailing the depressing lack of transparency to date, and more emphasis on two specific future-oriented document classes:

  1. Defensive Records – If Penn State and/or Columbia Gas decide to sue the Borough, one potentially strong defense (apart from the Community Bill of Rights) is to prove the permit application contained fraudulent misrepresentations, particularly the “distribution” vs. “transmission” line portrayal. There’s some preliminary evidence that Penn State and Columbia Gas employees coordinated communications around this issue, but more evidence will be needed. And if relevant documents – for example, PR team meeting notes or early drafts of communications intended for public release – have been or are destroyed prior to discovery, my understanding is that courts presume the destroyed documents would have supported the fraud allegations. That may provide grounds for summary judgment in the Borough’s favor, with prejudice. (I’m not a lawyer; I’m a paralegal with limited experience in these types of issues, and welcome clarification & correction from readers with legal expertise.)
  2. Offensive Records – The nascent energy sovereignty task force needs very detailed information about current energy consumption at Penn State in order to develop workable alternative plans – probably a package of intensive conservation measures coupled with renewables and an expansion of the East Campus Steam Plant. Matt Dahlhausen has already submitted a preliminary list of requested documents to Rob Cooper at PSU-OPP, included in his report below and forwarded to Erik Foley at the PSU Sustainability Institute this morning.

ENGINEERINGgolfcourse

4.1.13 Dahlhausen Engineering Report

Building Analysis (referenced in Dahlhausen report)

4.12.13 David Swanson Engineering Letter:

  • “…Penn State has a storied history in energy research, including some of the world’s best published work in hydrocarbons, biofuels, synthetic fuels, combustion, and the environmental effects of fossil fuel use.  The University and their research sponsors, all need highly reliable energy.  The University can attract research sponsorship and cut its energy bill by stepping up and demonstrating the technologies they are promoting through research, implementing those which make economic sense. Now is the time to get this right.  It’s in the University’s best long-term interest to clean up its environment and set the stage for the best power technologies to be perfected, understood, and disseminated.  Our state and nation need this kind of leadership, as mandated in Penn State’s mission.”

Rick Gilmore on Pipeline Safety:

  • “Following the fatal 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion and fire, the former head of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Brigham McCown, called for a national commission to examine the problem of high pressure gas pipelines through neighborhoods. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, McCown suggested that ‘a no mans land around some of these pipelines’ should be established or restrictions on pipes of certain sizes from neighborhoods. The article points out that such restrictions ‘would make the pipeline industry similar to the electric industry, which puts its highest voltage power lines in separate rights of way with large buffers to houses and other structures.’   I think Council needs to ask the Planning Commission to evaluate whether there should be setback requirements for safety reasons for all high pressure pipelines or similarly hazardous utility corridors routed through the Borough. This is not a fiber optic, sanitary sewer, or water line. Higher risks pose greater safety risks and require higher scrutiny.”

CITIZEN ACTION

Residents tabled at last weekend’s Banff Mountain Film Festival and held an informational and planning meeting on April 14, including a Community Bill of Rights presentation by Chad Nicholson of CELDF, covered in the Centre Daily Times today.

Organizers are gearing up for a similar Stop the Pipeline campaign in Ferguson Township, following news that a new pipeline is planned for the Turnberry development. Ferguson Township also has a Community Bill of Rights barring new fossil fuel infrastructure. Contact Pam Steckler for campaign details.

The next State College Borough Council meeting is tonight (April 15) at 7:30 at 243 South Allen St. Residents plan to attend to continue advocating for community-led energy systems planning.

For daily news and information-sharing, join the Stop the PSU Pipeline Facebook page.

Community members have also been investigating whether engineers involved in the pipeline planning process engaged in misconduct that could leave them open to license revocation.

See 63 Pa. Stat. Ann 150(a) Public Policy Concern:

“In order to safeguard life, health or property and to promote the general welfare, it is unlawful for any person to practice or to offer to practice engineering in the Commonwealth, unless he is licensed and registered under the laws of the Commonwealth as a professional engineer.”

The code includes a section on “Disciplinary Process and Procedures” (Section 3781) covering

“Misconduct. – (6) Making misleading, deceptive, untrue or fraudulent representations in the practice of engineering…”

OFFICIAL ACTION

State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine issued the Borough’s response to the Columbia Gas application last Thursday:

The Centre Daily Times covered the letter:

(Reading the CDT coverage in conjunction with the letter itself, I was really impressed with the cleverly nuanced wording of the non-denial/non-approval; it’s like legal aikido.)

The next Borough Council meeting is tonight (April 15) at 7:30 at 243 South Allen St.

Penn State and Columbia Gas are still considering their legal options. To my knowledge, no lawsuits have been filed.

MEDIA

I’ll try to keep the Media page at this blog updated with local, state and national coverage of the pipeline and Community Bill of Rights issues – aiming to get links to this past week’s coverage posted tomorrow.

This past week, residents also circulated information about Penn State’s leadership in building retrofits in Philadelphia:

Penn State helps Philadelphia lead energy innovation (March 9, 2013)

  • “The Philadelphia region is poised to become one of the nation’s leaders in energy-efficient building stock, thanks to a partnership among city leaders, utility companies, private businesses and Penn State — to name just a few of the key players.”

Penn State Receives $122 Million for U.S. DOE Energy Innovation HUB (Dec. 14, 2010)

  • “Penn State has embarked on an ambitious plan to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions of new and existing buildings, spur innovation, create jobs, and fine-tune a fragmented building industry…
  • Penn State is one of five co-applicants of the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC) for Energy Efficient Buildings, a consortium with a shared history in collaborative, regional technology-based economic development. The GPIC will receive more than $129 million during the next five years from multiple federal agencies. Of the $129 million, Penn State will receive $122 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to lead an Energy Innovation HUB (GPIC/HUB) to develop innovative energy-efficient building technologies, designs and systems…The GPIC/HUB is located at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia which spans 1,200 acres. The Navy Yard’s size, infrastructure, and diverse building stock, combined with its future development capacity, make it an ideal location for a national energy-efficient building initiative…Penn State has been active at The Navy Yard for the past 10 years, operating three other DOE Centers: the Mid-Atlantic Clean Energy Applications Center; the Northern Mid-Atlantic Solar Resource and Training Center; and the GridStar Smart Grid Training Center. All of these centers will complement the GPIC/HUB.”
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