Gas pipeline expansion impacts Franklin Township
● By J. Chambless
A new natural gas pipeline in Franklin and Londonderry townships will affect homeowners along a 7.2-mile stretch of land, but so far, public reaction to the plan has been muted.
The Eastern Shore Natural Gas Company, based in Dover, Del., is proposing a new 16-inch pipeline that will accompany two other existing lines, but will be run to the east of the current lines because further construction is not possible at the original site. The expansion will allow increased capacity to meet demand for natural gas in central Delaware.
The new 16-inch line would run from the area of Wingate Farms, southeast under Route 841 and south through Thompson Estates, crossing Route 896 and passing just a few yards south of the Franklin Township Building before rejoining the existing Eastern Shore pipelines that cross Franklin Township. The company already owns a right-of-way for its existing pipelines, but is seeking additional easements for facilities or temporary work spaces for construction along the pipelines.
A community meeting was held on Jan. 14 at the Avon Grove Intermediate School, and drew a small crowd of concerned citizens and homeowners, along with representatives from Eastern Shore. The proposed new pipeline will pass right by the Franklin Township building, and supervisors chairman John Auerbach attended the town meeting. He was to report his findings at the township's Jan. 21 board of supervisors meeting, but it was postponed by weather conditions to Jan. 28.
Auerbach provided his remarks to the Chester County Press, outlining his impression of the meeting.
"Eastern Shore Natural Gas had more than 10 company employees from a wide range of disciplines to answer questions from residents," Auerbach wrote. "They were well organized with information, maps and literature about the proposed project."
There are several documents and maps related to the pipeline proposal, called the White Oak Mainline Expansion Project, posted on the township's website (www.franklintownship.us).
"In my DuPont career, I have been responsible for all aspects of overland pipelines carrying steam, water, and various hydrocarbons (feedstock and finished product)," Auerbach wrote. "I put together a quick bullet list of subjects to use when talking to ESNG. My intent was to do a basic check on their technical and environmental credentials. After about 30 minutes of discussion, I concluded that they were well qualified to execute the project they propose."
Other representatives from Franklin Township at the Jan. 14 meeting were Paul Lagasse, the chairman of the Historical Architectural Review Board; Ralph Olivier, the chairman of the Planning Commission; and former supervisor Nan Latimer.
"The bigger issue for township residents is the disturbance to their properties and potential land devaluation," Auerbach wrote. "This will impact property owners in various degrees, depending on how they use their property."
There are already rules in place regarding how close land owners can put decks, pools, trees or other structures near the pipelines.
In a note from Franklin Township solicitor Mark Thompson that is posted on the township website, Thompson writes, "Pennsylvania municipalities have a very limited ability to regulate facilities associated with pipelines. ... Townships have very little authority to regulate the location and operation of interstate pipelines as the Federal Natural Gas Act confers upon the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 'exclusive jurisdiction' over the transportation and sale of natural gas in interstate commerce."
Auerbach said that about 30 people attended the meeting, with most from Londonderry Township. "My concern is that many people will start to express their concern when the pipeline construction starts," he wrote. "We have had many inquiries from various residents and we have advised them to follow our website for information and possible neighborhood meetings. Quite frankly, I am surprised at the lack of response."
A letter mailed to Franklin Township from Eastern Shore in December estimated that construction work would not begin until June 2015, pending all necessary approvals.
In a phone interview on Jan. 22, Auerbach said that the ground disturbance for installing the new pipeline "would be about 100 feet wide." Pipelines are installed in sections, he explained. Crews construct the metal pipe on a scaffolding above ground, then the pipe is lowered into a ditch and covered up before the crew moves on to the next section of pipe. Referring to his experience with installing pipelines of this kind, Auerbach praised the expertise of Eastern Shore and said, "These kinds of pipelines don't leak. It's as simple as that. They are monitored very closely. The biggest thing these companies have to worry about is somebody digging in their yard and hitting the line. Other than that, they are very safe."
For updated information regarding the pipeline project, visit www.franklintownship.us.