Fed OK for Sunbury pipeline expected ‘any day’

The Daily Item, Sunbury | March 6, 2015 By: Eric Scicchitano

UGI Sunbury continues to await a certification order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would allow site work to begin on the proposed five-county, 34-mile natural gas pipeline.

Meanwhile, a March 31 deadline for tree clearing related to the construction has been eased, according to Lora Zimmerman, field office supervisor with the State College office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Anthony Cox, project manager with UGI Sunbury, a subsidiary of UGI Energy Services, said he expects a decision on the certification “any day.”

FERC has set no deadline for issuing a certification order…

“FERC does not comment or speculate on commission actions,” said Tamara Young-Allen, a FERC spokeswoman, when asked whether a decision was near.

On the tree-clearing front, the Fish and Wildlife Service will permit tree clearing into April and beyond with certain restrictions, Zimmerman confirmed.

“In essence, (the wildlife service) said the tree clearing restriction was basically lifted for the project,” Cox said.

If the felling of trees along the pipeline path extends beyond March, Zimmerman confirmed UGI will be required to send surveyors into the project area and check for nestlings of four distinct species of concern: the warbler, whippoorwill, wood thrush and red-headed woodpecker.

“We have to wait until they left the nest until they take that tree down,” Cox said.

The species list would grow if tree-clearing extends into May, the Migratory Bird Mitigation Plan states.

Cox says the pipeline project is on schedule. It’s expected to be completed by November and in service by February to begin testing at the power plant.

Construction requires 100 feet of temporary right-of-way and 50 permanent feet. Peak work force is estimated at 350 employees. Half are expected to be hired locally.

The $160 million gas line originates in the Marcellus Shale region of Lycoming County and meanders south through Montour, Northumberland and Union counties — crossing through about 120 properties and beneath several creeks as well as the Susquehanna River — before reaching its ultimate destination in Snyder County.

The pipeline, 20 inches in diameter, will deliver a maximum of 200,000 dekatherms of gas daily — an estimated 90 percent of it to the $710 million Hummel Station natural gas power plant under construction in Shamokin Dam at the site of Sunbury Generation’s former coal-fired behemoth.

Panda Power Funds, Texas, is funding the power plant project on a 20-acre parcel along the river. It’s expected to produce 1,124 megawatts to power 1 million homes, including in New York and Philadelphia, and is to be operating by the close of 2017. Peak work force for construction of the power plant project is projected at 900 workers.

The line interconnects the plant to the Marc I, Regency and Transcontinental regional gas pipelines, according to Panda’s website.