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Gas route fuels concern for landowners in pipeline’s path

BUCKHORN — Linda Quodomine fights back tears and shakes off a tremble in her voice as she tells of how a massive natural gas pipeline threatens to shutter her horse veterinary practice in Buckhorn, the culmination of her life’s work.

Should the 183-mile Central Penn extension be laid as planned by the Williams energy company, it will temporarily cut off several pastures not only at her 22-acre business but also at her 19-acre home across Schoolhouse Road where she has nine horses of her own.

A trench dug through her properties would span up to 125 feet during construction, Quodomine says. There will be no room for her own horses to graze, necessitating they be boarded off site. She estimates a mile of fencing would be lost.

Similarly, little room will remain for her clients’ horses — those brought to her clinic to give birth, or for breeding or surgery. Racehorses are boarded there for layup off-track.

“This is lost for two years. That basically cripples my business,” said the 60-year-old horse doctor. “I’ll put ‘for sale’ signs up. It’ll shut my business down. How can I stay here?”

An alternative route exists. It would skirt Buckhorn to the east, adding about an additional mile in piping. Williams studied the alternative but supports the current path. Both are under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Chris Stockton, a company spokesman, says the alternative route would impact 19 additional property owners, would require more timbering than planned, and would run a steeper slope beneath Interstate 80. On-site construction is estimated at up to two months, the company website states.

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“In a way you’re shifting impact which isn’t always a desirable outcome,” Stockton said.

“We have not proposed (the alternative) as the preferred route. We still believe the original route has more advantages,” he said.

The pipeline project is dubbed the Atlantic Sunrise. It will funnel natural gas through a 42-inch diameter pipe between the Marcellus Shale region and Williams’ existing Transco line, connecting in southeast Pennsylvania. However, it’s considered an interstate project since the line runs beyond the Keystone State, which allows for eminent domain.

A significant amount of the gas is bound for international export, according to published reports. Williams maintains on its website dedicated for the project that a majority of the gas will be consumed domestically.

The economic impact direct to Columbia County is estimated by Williams at $85 million, with $62 million in support of 1,012 jobs — largely temporary for construction.

Quodomine has about 450 clients, largely for off-site veterinary services. She’s sought their support. She’s also turned to neighbors, some of whom fear falling within the “impact radius” of 1,150 feet on either side of the pipeline should it malfunction and explode.

Sixty-six letters of protest against the pipeline have been filed this month alone ahead of a Monday deadline, and 169 total since Oct. 1, including some from beyond Columbia County but with concerns in their own backyards. One letter states about 170 Buckhorn properties are within the “impact zone.”

The Quodomine Veterinary Services building and land is an extension of its owner.

She built her home in 2001, and purchased the land for her business to which she walks daily in 2009. She’s put countless hours into its development, installing fencing and performing barn work herself, and invested significant dollars in creating the state-of-the-art horse clinic. It only opened in 2013.

Nearly every waking moment, she says, is spent at work or at home. She has faith the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will mandate the gas line be re-routed around Buckhorn.

For now, though, she’s held off on making further investments to either property.

“I can’t throw any more money into this place unless I know I’m staying,” Quodomine said. “If it comes through they’ll shut me down, if they want to admit it or not.”

This article was written by Eric Scicchitano from The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.