Monday Morning Pipeline News (on Tuesday) – June 18, 2013

LITIGATION

On June 12, 2013, Borough residents Smita Bharti and Johan Zwart intervened in the lawsuit Columbia Gas filed against the Borough of State College and Borough Manager Tom Fountaine on May 13, 2013 (5.13.13 Columbia Gas Complaint).

Notice of Intervention Documents:

To my knowledge, the lawsuit is still on hold, while Columbia Gas continues to work with Penn State to identify feasible alternative pipeline routes that bypass Borough land. However, the Borough has now racked up a consistent record of withholding information about pipeline developments from the public for several weeks after each new event, so it’s highly probable that residents will not hear about new developments in the litigation until several weeks after those occur.

Given the lack of transparency, it appears that Borough officials remain uncertain as to whether they’re allied with the people of the Borough or with the gas corporation and Penn State in this matter.

ENGINEERING & OFFICIAL ACTION

On June 14, Borough officials and Penn State spokespeople issued press releases announcing that two new routes are now under consideration, and that Land Use Letters have been filed with the Borough as part of the planning process.

But the reports have been inconsistent.

For example, the two routes identified in the two land use letters include:

  1. “Starting above the Hampton Inn on College Avenue, running through College Township, the Borough of State College and the Penn State Campus and connecting to the Penn State University Boiler Facility.” (May 28 letter)
  2. “Starting at the Columbia Gas Meter Building northeast of Porter Road, crossing Porter Road, traveling through the Penn State Campus south of the Track and Field Stadium, traveling northwest up University Drive, crossing University Drive at the Curtin Road intersection, traveling northwest alongside University Drive, turning southwest along Park Avenue, crossing Park Avenue by Tener Hall, running southwest on the northwest side of Park Avenue, crossing Park Avenue and traveling southeast down Shortlidge Road, traveling southwest down Curtin Road, traveling southeast down Burrowes Road, crossing southwest on the southeast side of Sigma Nu House, traveling southeast and connecting to the Penn State University Boiler.” (May 29 letter)

The Borough’s press release says both routes bypass Borough streets and land.

However, Columbia Gas spokesman Russ Bedell is quoted in the Centre Daily Times saying the second route is the original Prospect Avenue route we’ve been fighting since mid-March:

“Bedell, the Columbia Gas spokesman, said the second is the original route and was requested as part of normal procedure.”

“Normal procedure” is an intriguing phrase, prompting the question (yet again) about whether Columbia Gas was in compliance with pipeline laws on their first try, since there was no “land use letter” in the public documents from the first round.

I’ve also heard that there’s a third route, mentioned in internal emails between PSU Office of Physical Plant staff, but haven’t yet seen those emails. Long story short: the public is still being misled and misinformed about the facts.

The overarching issue is that Penn State may not need to convert the West Campus Steam Plant at all; it may be feasible to phase out the plant completely and meet the university’s energy needs and greenhouse gas reduction targets by a combination of conservation and renewables.

To date, Penn State officials have refused to release their specific calculations of current and projected energy sourcing and use under a variety of energy system scenarios, possibly because the data support citizens’ view that the university is wedded to the steam plant conversion plan for political, rather than practical reasons.

Rob Cooper and the other OPP staffers who continue to withhold important data from the public are in a tough spot: unpleasantly stuck between Corbett, corporate oil & gas donors to the university, and a bunch of angry State College residents trying to protect themselves from a dangerous gas transmission line through their neighborhood, plus the PSU Board of Trustees and the State College Borough Council and Borough Manager.

CITIZEN ACTION

Residents have been seeking national media coverage of the pipeline conflict:

Residents have also been seeking clarification about the number of routes currently under consideration.

RIGHT TO KNOW

Borough – Dave Stone retrieved the land use letters from the Borough on June 17:

PA Public Utilities Commission – With assistance from Vincent Crespi, I filed an appeal to the Pennsylvania Utility Commission’s partial denial of my May 3 Right-to-Know request, which sought records related to Columbia Gas’ February 26, 2013 notice of planned construction and the March 19, 2013 meeting that took place between Columbia Gas’ Anthony Sulkowski and PUC staff. The appeal has been forwarded to an attorney at the PA Office of Open Records and is currently under review.

SUSTAINABLE ENERGY POLICY DEVELOPMENT

Here’s a one-page summary of proposed energy sovereignty legislation to lay out the community responsibilities that come with the Community Bill of Rights, submitted to Borough Council by me at last week’s (June 10) work session.

MEDIA

Centre Daily Times

WTAJ/WeAreCentralPA.com

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