A week after staff members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency visited residents' homes in Chester County that are being affected by the Transco natural gas pipeline expansion project, Transco asked the regulatory agency to approve the project by July 15.
It was a request that alarmed and baffled state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19th, of West Whiteland, who has been working to aid residents whose property will be severely affected by the taking of additional right-of-way.
In a letter to FERC chairman July 14, Dinniman asked the agency to deny Williams' request.
Dinniman said it was strange to have Williams ask for the approval of a project when FERC representatives were just in Chester County a week ago walking parts of the pipeline route and talking to residents. Obviously, FERC hadn't finished their investigations.
Moreover, Williams officials attended a forum at Great Valley High School on June 16 hosted by U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-6th, of West Pikeland.
At that forum, Williams officials said they were negotiating with Level3 Communications, a company with a fiber optic cable in the Transco pipeline ROW. Williams said if the negotiations with Level3 were successful, Level3 would lower their fiber optic cable 10 feet and there would be enough room in the ROW to replace the 30-inch diameter pipe with a 42-inch diameter pipe without any need for additional permanent ROW. That is good news for many residents who are facing the loss of hundreds of trees in some instances.
"It does not make sense for the commission to approve Transco's application by July 15 knowing that the Level3 alternative has not yet been fully examined," said Dinniman.
Willimas, the natural gas giant that owns the Transco pipeline, has an application with FERC to expand sections of the Transco pipeline in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The application has been in the works since 2006.
Celeste Miller, a spokeswoman for FERC, said Friday that the commission had not made a
decision on the project yet.
Williams spokesperson Chris Stockton verified that Williams had asked FERC to reach a decision by July 15 but claimed it was because the company was under a deadline to start work on the New Jersey section.
"When we get an approval, there are a lot of conditions," said Stockton. "They could issue a certificate dependent on exploring the Level3 option. Or they could issue a partial certificate that only covers the earlier part."
It was an answer that Dinniman found disingenuous in the least.
"They didn't say (in their request to FERC for the July 15 approval) we want you (FERC) to approve the work in New Jersey only," said Dinniman Friday.
"The letter (to FERC from Williams) would lead one to believe they want the whole project approved. Most of the residents on this project don't feel like their comments are being paid attention to," said Dinniman.
While the public comment period expired May 19, the FERC has been accepting additional comments.
Stockton said negotiations were still going on with Level3 but that the company "should know something definitive by mid-August."