Town boards will be looking at preliminary plans being floated to build a new natural gas pipeline through Schoharie County, a proposal that’s in its infancy as a major gas transport company explores the need for more fuel in the Northeast.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline is conducting outreach efforts in several towns as it considers a possible project to boost infrastructure, according to Richard N. Wheatley, a spokesman for the El Paso Corp., the parent company of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. The company operates an interstate pipeline system dedicated to transportation of gas.
Wheatley said El Paso is evaluating the need for another pipe to transport gas supplies from northeastern Pennsylvania to a pipeline interconnection near Albany. If the project moves forward, the company envisions getting it into service as early as 2014.
Such projects fall under the purview of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but also need permits through the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the state Public Service Commission. No applications had been filed for the work Thursday.
Schoharie Supervisor Eugene Milone said he gets a bad feeling when he hears the words “gas pipeline.”
He said the first thing that comes to his mind is “Blenheim,” referring to the pressurized propane pipeline now owned by another company, Enterprise Products Partners, formerly called the Teppco pipeline. That pipeline has exploded twice — once in 1990, killing two people, and again in 2004 in Delaware County, destroying a home.
It sprang a leak again in 2010, causing a major evacuation. That third incident sparked an investigation still under way by the federal Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
“It’s all left to the possibility of just another looming disaster running through this county,” Milone said. He said he thinks a new pipeline would “just be a magnet for hydrofracking.”
According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company was issued a Corrective Action Order after a Nov. 16 failure in its gas pipeline in Morgan County, Ohio. Published reports from that incident indicate the explosion that followed caused fires in three houses and two barns but did not cause any deaths.
One of the company’s pipelines in New Mexico did have a major explosion back in 2000, killing 12 people camping out nearby.
In the eastern region that covers the Capital Region, Tennessee Gas Pipeline was issued a warning letter by the PHMSA alleging the company was late filing an annual report to regulators.
Wheatley, from the El Paso Corp., said there are several factors behind the company’s belief that more infrastructure is needed.
For one, there’s been a decline in gas supplies that are available from Canada due to reduced production there. Increases in domestic production have also decreased the supplies coming from overseas, and the available capacity of the current pipeline network in the Northeast is dwindling as well, according to Wheatley.
He said a new natural gas pipeline could conceivably be used by producers making use of the Marcellus Shale deposit in the region. But Wheatley said the status of drilling for gas in New York’s portion of the Marcellus Shale is unclear at this point, so that’s not the motivating factor behind considering the project.
Natural gas supply sources are growing in availability domestically, according to information provided by Wheatley, which depicts pipeline expansions from the Rocky Mountain production areas and areas farther west.
There’s also growth in the New Jersey and East Coast markets expected to boost demand for more gas.
“In coming years, New York/New Jersey and East Coast consuming markets are predicted to experience substantial increases in average day and peak day natural gas demand that will require additional delivery capacity,” Wheatley said in an email Thursday.
The bulk of this increase is projected for use in generating electric power to replace coal-fired plants due to environmental concerns, he said.
The company’s research and outreach will progress to the point where a decision will be made on whether to file an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
That process, which will include environmental reviews, will involve several opportunities for public input in the future, Wheatley said.
Schoharie County Board of Supervisors Chairman Harold Vroman on Thursday described the proposal as “in its infancy” and said officials are just beginning to review the idea.
“As far as what it means right at the moment, I’m not sure. It’s got to be looked at,” he said.