In response to ‘Dear Commissioners’
I am writing in response to Anne M. Doerr in her letter to the Clinton County commissioners and its publication in The Express on Feb. 24.
Some of your assumptions are inaccurate or require clarification.
As it is, news articles are often a synopsis of a discussion, not an in-depth report, so we wish to address some of the points you made in your letter.
On Feb. 12, Don Kiel, the executive director of the SEDA-COG Natural Gas Cooperative, Inc., a private nonprofit corporation, made a presentation to the Clinton County commissioners with a focus on potential natural gas projects in Clinton County. There are six member counties in the Cooperative, including Clinton County, and I am the Cooperative’s President.
The Cooperative’s work involves seeking and developing natural gas infrastructure projects to provide economic benefits to citizens and businesses in its member counties. We have several areas in Clinton County that may be suitable for natural gas delivery projects. The funding application referred to by Mr. Kiel in his presentation is to conduct a feasibility study to identify and evaluate potential “virtual pipeline” projects in all our member counties, including Clinton, and is not for actual project development and implementation.
I would stress that the potential for a virtual pipeline project happening in Sugar Valley and the Loganton area is only under initial consideration – it is in the early evaluation stage. The virtual pipeline approach involves bringing in compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) by delivery vehicle, and does not necessarily include building any delivery pipelines, although that can be an option to connect users that are located in close proximity, such as residential areas of Loganton. The area does have some larger potential “anchor” users who could substantially benefit from the cost and energy efficiencies that can be provided by natural gas, including Nicholas Meats and others, who are important providers of jobs and income for area residents. There are also other nearby small businesses and clusters of homes who could benefit from having natural gas as one of their fuel sources or options.
I want to be clear that I am an advocate of the expansion of natural gas benefits to Clinton County, and approached Mr. Nicholas as a potential high-level gas user. He did not seek our help as your letter suggests. Our plan is to meet and discuss the prospects of using natural gas with Mr. Nicholas as well as other businesses and residents if they so desire. Any project that might result would certainly be optional for any resident or business; it would not be mandatory to participate.
You also mentioned needs assessments, traffic, and risk assessment in your letter. These are all aspects of developing a project which would be carefully examined and evaluated. The virtual pipeline model approach is designed to minimize any negative traffic effects. If preliminary analysis of a potential project in the Loganton area is favorable, the Cooperative would expect to host one or more community meetings to collect input and to hear and address potential concerns of area residents.
Finally, you made several references to funding of projects. Under the laws of Pennsylvania, a Cooperative such as ours is eligible for various federal and state grant and loan programs to devise business plans and build infrastructure for the general benefit of a community, and promote job retention and creation and improved services to residents. In Centre County and Centre Hall, the Cooperative recently received a state grant to support development of a natural gas project. This project included development of a partnership including the Borough of Centre Hall, Potter Township, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Dominion Energy, Hanover Foods, and other businesses, community organizations, and residents.
Matching funds and services will be provided by these entities through a “public-private partnership” approach.
The Cooperative is proud to have served as the sponsor and catalyst in bringing these groups together to leverage resources for a natural gas project that will benefit an entire community. We will seek to develop any projects in Clinton County through a similar public-private solution.
(Robert “Pete” Smeltz is a Clinton County commissioner and president of the SEDA-COG Natural Gas Cooperative board of directors.)