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A group of residents from Bucks County, PA (near Philadelphia), calling themselves Bucks County Concerned Citizens Against the Pipeline (kind of gives away their true aim, no?) have asked the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) to perform “baseline scientific studies” for communities located along the proposed route of the Adelphia Gateway pipeline project.
Adelphia Gateway is a plan to convert an old oil pipeline stretching from Northampton County, PA through Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester counties, terminating in Delaware County at Marcus Hook, to pump natural gas instead of oil (see Oil Pipeline Near Philly to be Converted to Flow Fracked NatGas). The project includes converting 84 miles of existing 18-inch pipeline, converting 4.4 miles of 20-inch pipeline, building two new short lateral pipelines (one, a quarter of a mile, the other, 4.5 miles), and building two compressor stations and various metering stations.
The project hit some early opposition over the location of a planned compressor station (see PA Residents Sound Off Against Adelphia Pipe at DEP Hearing). However, the project is moving forward. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a favorable environmental assessment in January (see Adelphia Gateway Pipe Enviro Assessment Approved by FERC), and the PA DEP is in the process of issuing a federal 401 water crossing permit (see PA DEP Signals Approval for Adelphia Gateway Pipe Near Philly).
Sensing final approvals from both FERC and the DEP are coming any day now, the Concerned Citizens group is grasping for straws to slow it down, perhaps holding out hope they can still stop it. The latest tactic is to request baseline testing of current air, soil and water quality before the project proceeds.
As you’ll read in the story below, the ongoing chief complaint with Adelphia Gateway is building a new compressor station in West Rockhill.
The Bucks County Concerned Citizens Against the Pipeline are asking the state to establish the current air, soil and water quality before a proposed natural gas pipeline is constructed.
A group of area environmentalists is asking the state to do “baseline scientific studies” for communities along a proposed natural gas and oil pipeline through parts of Bucks County.
Bucks County Concerned Citizens Against the Pipelines has petitioned the state Department of Environmental Protection to establish the level of the air, soil and water quality along the proposed Adelphia Gateway LLC pipeline project as a record to track any future impacts.
Adelphia is currently seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a natural gas pipeline through Northampton, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties in Pennsylvania and New Castle County in Delaware.
The Bucks County group said in a news release this week the project “continues to raise grave concerns,” especially regarding the health and safety impacts of a compressor station in West Rockhill.
“The (DEP) would be wise to integrate procedural changes requiring scientific studies on public health, air, water and soil in communities impacted by the new oil and gas projects in Pennsylvania,” Arianne Elinich, organizer for the group, said in the release.
Commonly known as the Quakertown Compressor Station, Adelphia proposes a 5,625-horsepower compressor station at a 1.5-acre site on Rich Hill Road, near the border of West Rockhill and Richland.
“It is essential that this testing be done immediately and we will continue to encourage the (DEP) to take the steps necessary to protect the health and safety of our communities,” Elinich added.
Elinich said in a phone interview Monday the letter was sent to about 12 people at the DEP, as well as to the state Department of Health and other agencies.
“I’m hoping it can be a collaborative effort between the multiple agencies,” Elinich added.
The Adelphia project is a “re-purposing” of the existing Interstate Energy Company Pipeline, which was originally built to transport oil only, the group’s letter states.
Adelphia’s 84-mile project would add new pipe to that existing infrastructure, as well as another compressor station in Lower Chichester, Delaware County.
The controversial Quakertown station has drawn the ire of area residents, West Rockhill Township officials and representatives in the State and U.S. House of Representatives.
The station would be housed in an 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot building running 250 million cubic feet of natural gas nonstop.
Residents fear the potential dangers of the station, which is as close as 200 feet from some neighbors’ property lines. Their concerns range from air contamination to catastrophic explosion.
Concerns from residents prompted the township becoming a party in the FERC application.
Officials said this past summer the company misled the township as to the size and scope of the compressor station, but municipal governments have little say in the federal regulation of a public utility.
Representatives from Adelphia have denied the company intentionally misled the township regarding its compressor station.
Township Manager Greg Lippincott said in December that FERC has the ultimate say in which local zoning laws, if any, Adelphia must abide.
West Rockhill’s motion to intervene in the project’s FERC application says the project does not conform to the township’s zoning ordinances.
As a public comment period for the compressor station drew to a close on Dec. 12, state Rep. Craig Staats, R-145, and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1, of Middletown, pressed FERC to find a new location for the Bucks compressor station.
An initial environmental assessment from FERC issued in January, however, found the site to be “optimal” for the project.
Elinich credited the idea for the letter to Rebecca Roter, an organizer for the local air quality activism group Breathe Easy Susquehanna Co., in Susquehanna County.
Roter reached out to Elinich and told her it was within the group’s rights to ask the state for baseline studies, something the Bucks County organizer had not considered pursuing before.
The letter doesn’t outline specifically what studies should be done, but Elinich said her letter is clearly pointing to a comprehensive environmental and public health study along the proposed pipeline route.
A DEP spokeswoman was unable to respond Monday during an event in Abington, but has not issued a response Tuesday afternoon.
A FERC decision is in limbo, Elinich said, adding that the commission could decide “any day now” whether to order an environmental impact study or move on to approvals for the project.*
A couple of things to note about the story above. Compressor stations are contentious, for good reason. They’re loud, they emit some nasty stuff into the air, and they’re loud. Did we mention they’re loud? We understand. And no, we wouldn’t be jazzed if a compressor station was moving in 200 feet from our home either. However, these folks knew when they purchased (or built) their homes of the existence of the pipeline and there must have been a reasonable expectation that some day work on that pipeline, even new structures, would get built. The pipeline was there first. The homeowners assumed the risk of living near it. Now they don’t want to live in the bed they’ve made.
Second, with respect to conducting baseline measurements. Go for it! Why not?! Our industry should have nothing to hide or fear. If it’s found that air pollution levels go up with the compressor station, levels that are over federal and state guidelines for being safe, then the compressor has a problem and will need to fix it. If conducting baseline measurements will prove to folks they have nothing to fear, then by all means, let’s do it.
*Levittown (PA) Bucks County Courier Times (Apr 17, 2019) – Local group presses DEP for studies before Adelphia pipeline
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