EPA Opposes MARC 1 Shale Gas Pipeline in Northeastern PA

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is throwing its considerable weight against building a new shale gas pipeline that would cross three counties in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Federal environmental regulators are questioning the rationale of a proposed 39-mile natural gas pipeline that opponents say would damage 600 acres of pristine forests and streams in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains region.

Central New York Oil and Gas Company LLC is seeking regulatory approval to use eminent domain, if necessary, to acquire land for its MARC 1 pipeline in Bradford, Sullivan and Lycoming counties.

The pipeline could open new areas to drilling and would connect with three existing interstate pipelines to take natural gas produced from the giant Marcellus Shale formation to market.

In written comments this week, the federal Environmental Protection Agency said it’s not clear why the MARC 1 needs to be built at all, given existing pipeline infrastructure.

"It is difficult to understand why natural gas distribution could not be accomplished in the absence of the MARC 1 line," the EPA’s Philadelphia office wrote, adding that New York Oil and Gas itself has said that other pipelines are capable of transporting gas from the Marcellus.

The agency noted the pipeline would cross more than 100 waterways, result in the loss of more than 200,000 mature trees, and said it had questions about the possible effect on "water quality, aquatic resources, air quality, wildlife and their habitat and forested landscapes, among other environmental and cultural values" in the area popular with tourists.

The EPA submitted its comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which must approve the pipeline project.

FERC staff have already found the pipeline would have "no significant impact" on the environment and recommended that it be allowed to go forward.

But the EPA said the commission analysis "does not clearly explain to the public why the existing gas pipeline distribution network is not sufficient for providing access to interstate markets for Marcellus Shale natural gas, and why a new pipeline … through largely undeveloped and forested land needs to be constructed."*

Central New York Oil and Gas is a subsidiary of Inergy LP of Kansas City, Mo.

*Elmira Star-Gazette (Jul 14, 2011) – EPA questions need for Pa. gas pipeline

2 thoughts on “EPA Opposes MARC 1 Shale Gas Pipeline in Northeastern PA

  1. I can’t understand, either, why gas companies cannot share pipelines or, at the very least, right-of-ways that have already been clear cut. It’d save them money. and it’d save us from having to look at large swaths of brown mud and invasive species grass. Kudos to EPA for once again doing its job and protecting us from corporate ham-handedness.

  2. Wait… what?  I don’t think you understand how pipelines work.
    A company builds a line to accommodate a certain capacity and sells that space to operators.  Anyone is free to use it as long as they pay for the units they move through the pipeline (and the gas is at a specified rating).
    The EPA is saying it isn’t needed, that there is sufficient capacity in the area – which may or may not be the case.  A burgeoning area will likely need additional capacity – some of these lines are older and just simply aren’t big enough to handle the volume of gas the Marcellus is producing, or will produce soon.  You have to remember, no one is drilling wells because they feel like it – they have to monetize the gas, and that requires a pipeline. 
    As for sharing right of ways, I don’t think you want a lot of large digging equipment mucking around a huge underground pipeline.  I’m not a facilities guy, but I’d say they utilize what they can as much as possible… but trying to lay a parallel pipe next to an existing one seems unsafe.
    Hope that clears it up a little.