PLAINS TWP. — When Charles Adonizio got a phone call at his Westminster Road home on Saturday, Aug. 1 from someone wanting to survey his land, he was perplexed.
“I said no. I didn’t even know what he was talking about,” he said.
When Adonizio read in the news about pipelines coming through Luzerne County to transport natural gas from the bountiful Marcellus Shale wells in the northern part of Pennsylvania, he never thought he’d have one in his backyard.
But then he got the packet of papers from PennEast Pipeline Company LLC: Part of its $1 billion, 113.8-mile, 36-inch diameter Pennsylvania-to-New Jersey pipeline is being re-routed through Plains Township — and his property is right in the intended path.
PennEast expects to file a formal application to construct the pipeline with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission within the next few days.
Residents affected by recent route changes fear it might be too late to object.
As a kid growing up in Pittston, Adonizio used to come out to the former mine land in Plains Township to ride his bike and go exploring.
When the opportunity came up about 30 years ago to buy a parcel of it, he jumped at the chance. Adonizio built a house to raise his family in with his wife Karen; they landscaped, laid out gardens, put in a quaint waterlily-laden pond that attracts an assortment of migratory waterfowl, including blue herons.
Part of the land still shows its mining scars, including heaps of culm and slate, a strip pit and a gated mine shaft now colonized by bats; some of it is unspoiled, with wetlands and thick woods. The late-1950s Transco interstate natural gas pipeline runs through the property, as does a PPL electric line.
Adonizio would rather see the PennEast pipeline go alongside the PPL electric easement than have another section of his property clear-cut and ruined.
And having one pipeline there is enough, he says.
“We just want to enjoy our property. We put too much into it,” he said.
More public comment
In mid-August 2014, PennEast, a joint venture among AGL Resources; NJR Pipeline Company; PSEG Power LLC; South Jersey Industries; Spectra Energy Partners and UGI Energy Services, announced its intention of constructing a new natural gas pipeline to supply 1 billion cubic feet of Marcellus Shale natural gas per day to markets in the northeast and mid-Atlantic region. UGI Energy Services would operate the pipeline.
Since announcing the project, PennEast has been developing a route, and most landowners were notified early in the process.
The pipeline will begin in Dallas Township, where the Williams Partners LP Springville Interconnect and the Energy Transfer Partners LP Wyoming Interconnect — both lines that bring gas from wells in Susquehanna County — tap into the Williams Companies’ Transco interstate natural gas pipeline. The 10,200-mile Transco pipeline system runs from Texas to New York City.
PennEast’s line would run through eastern Pennsylvania, crossing over into New Jersey and terminating at a connection in Mercer County.
The formal application to FERC contains PennEast’s preferred route, after doing all the surveying, and engineering and environmental studies, and company spokewoman Patricia Kornick said the company is recommending it as the final route.
Right now, before the formal application is filed, is the best time to address changes, she said.
“As we continue through the process, we have … limited opportunities to change the route,” Kornick said.
When the formal application is submitted, FERC will issue a notice, which gives interested parties the opportunity to intervene legally in the case.
Meanwhile FERC will analyze PennEast’s application, request additional data if needed, and prepare a draft environmental impact statement. When this draft version of the statement is complete, there will be opportunities for public comment, and commission staff can make revisions to the statement.
The finalized environmental impact statement, which addresses any comments, will be used by the commission, a five-member body appointed by President Obama, to render a decision on the project.
The changes in Plains
One change to the PennEast route as it evolved involved adjusting it in Plains Township to avoid an active rock quarry which does blasting, as well as a parcel of land that will someday have a planned residential development built on it.
Michael and Mary Grace Loncoski already have the Transco pipeline across the street from the home they have lived in on East Saylor Avenue since 1972 — the first house in their neighborhood in Plains Township’s Hilldale section.
On Aug. 25, they got a letter from PennEast notifying them they could have a pipeline practically in their backyard, too.
The new route brings the PennEast pipeline 50 feet from the Loncoskis’ property line — and those of their neighbors along Saylor Avenue.
“It’s great that it’s going to avoid the planned development, but what about the houses that are already here?” Michael Loncoski said.
The idea of being in the blast radius of a 36-inch pipeline makes the Loncoskis nervous.
“I shouldn’t be upset, but I am,” Mary Grace Loncoski said.
Michael Loncoski’s biggest contention is, “they shouldn’t run these high-pressure lines in residential areas.”
“No matter how safe they think it is, it only takes one time,” he said.
Mary Grace Loncoski is particularly worried because the area was once heavily mined, and there are many underground tunnels and the danger of subsidence.
“Even years ago, they said you could walk from Scranton to Wilkes-Barre through the mines,” she said.
There’s also the issue of stormwater runoff, which Michael Loncoski said has been a problem since 1982 and has gotten worse since the area has become more developed. During heavy rain, water runs across the road, through a deep gully and down to where the pipeline would be constructed, he said. They’re concerned the water could cause erosion and corrosion.
“I just wish they could keep it away from the residential areas. That’s all,” Michael Loncoski said.
‘But when it hits home …’
Kornick said that while drafting the environmental impact statement, FERC might review the route and decide to take different options.
And in some cases, what looks like the best route might not be the safest or most environmentally feasible, she said.
“The bottom line is, we have to ensure not only the safest construction and operation, but a minimum of impact on the community and the environment,” Kornick said, adding that PennEast has been listening to landowners and is trying to be responsive and responsible.
Kornick said those whose property might be directly affected should understand that Pennsylvania is in a unique position: We are able to cultivate the gas that is literally beneath our feet, and not have to depend on foreign oil.
“There are landowners who are extremely supportive of it,” she said.
That’s because they are part of the bigger picture, and because it will mean lower utility rates and increased reliability for customers, she said.
The irony is, neither Adonizio nor his neighbors on Westminster Road can get gas. The distribution lines aren’t there.
For property owners who can’t get gas, Kornick said the PennEast pipeline helps take them one step closer for the utility to consider the next step in building the infrastructure — lines to deliver gas to more homes. That might not happen in the next year or two, but there is the option, she said.
Adonizio said he’s all for energy independence. As an American, he knows domestically produced energy is good.
“But when it hits home …” he said.
There’s also the fear that the PennEast pipeline won’t be the last to come through the region.
“Another thing is, is this just the beginning?” Michael Loncoski wondered.
The 113.8-mile, 36-inch diameter PennEast pipeline will begin in Dallas Township, where the Williams Partners LP Springville Interconnect and the Energy Transfer Partners LP Wyoming Interconnect tap into the Williams Companies’ Transco interstate natural gas pipeline. These two gathering lines bring gas from Marcellus Shale wells in Susquehanna County. The PennEast connection to the Transco pipeline will be one-quarter of a mile from Dallas High School, according to the company’s monthly report to FERC for August.
The pipeline is routed to run through:
– Dallas Township, 1.3 miles.
– Kingston Township, 2.9 miles, skirting the southwestern edge of Frances Slocum State Park.
– West Wyoming Borough, 1.8 miles, where it will connect to UGI Energy Services LLC’s Auburn interconnect to the Transco pipeline.
– Wyoming Borough, 1.1 miles.
– Jenkins Township, 1.9 miles.
– Plains Township, 2.6 miles, where it was re-routed to avoid the active Popple quarry.
– Laflin Borough, 1.1 miles.
– Bear Creek Township, 10.4 miles.
From there, the pipeline goes through Carbon, Northampton and Bucks counties, then crosses into New Jersey, where it is routed through Hunterdon County before terminating in Mercer County.
This article was written by Elizabeth Skrapits from The Citizens’ Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.