UGI seeks earlier deadline for Sunbury pipeline

Central Penn Business Journal | November 24, 2015 By: Joel Berg

A subsidiary of UGI Corp. wants regulators to move more quickly in approving a natural-gas pipeline designed to feed a power plant being built in Sunbury.

If regulators don’t act by the end of the year, the pipeline may not be ready in time to serve the plant, warned the UGI subsidiary, UGI Sunbury LLC.

At issue is the timing of an environmental assessment by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which must approve the pipeline. The agency has set a Jan. 7 deadline for publishing its assessment.

The commission won’t approve the pipeline until it has considered the assessment, which could take about 30 days, said Tamara Young-Allen, a spokeswoman for FERC.

Under FERC’s timeline, other federal agencies have until April 6 to complete their own environmental reviews.

When it applied earlier this year to build the pipeline, UGI Sunbury had asked the commission to set a Jan. 1 deadline for authorizing the project. The company renewed its request in a letter earlier this month.

“If everything had worked the way we had hoped it would have worked, the environmental assessment would have been published by now,” said Anthony Cox, a project manager for UGI Sunbury.

It’s unclear whether UGI’s latest request will affect the commission’s timetable.

“They will take that into consideration, and we’ll see what happens,” Young-Allen said.

The 34.5-mile pipeline will carry natural gas through five counties — Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union — and deliver it to Hummel Station, a gas-fired power plant to be built next to a defunct coal plant in Sunbury.

A later deadline jeopardizes the pipeline’s ability to serve the new plant, which is being financed by Panda Power Funds LP, a Dallas-based private equity fund, Cox wrote in a letter to FERC.

“Sunbury’s proposed timeline for the receipt of its FERC certificate and other required authorizations and the commencement of pipeline construction was carefully developed with little flexibility for delay,” Cox wrote.

The pipeline is expected to enter service in February 2017.

UGI Sunbury was hoping to begin pipeline construction in early 2016 to account for restrictions imposed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The restrictions affect timing of construction work that involves clearing trees and installing stream crossings. Trees must be cleared by March 31, while stream crossing can’t be installed after Feb. 28, according to the UGI letter.

If UGI can’t take the first step of clearing trees early next year, the entire project would be delayed, Cox wrote in his letter.