In December, MDN told you that work on the 120-mile Commonwealth Pipeline, a Marcellus Shale pipeline running from Lycoming County to the Philadelphia area was “on hold” (see Commonwealth Pipeline for Marcellus Region on Hold). You can now change that to work has been “suspended” on the pipeline—indefinitely. Did the anti-drillers win this particular skirmish in the fracking wars?
Maybe. Maybe not. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle—part of the reason for stopping work and suspending the project is opposition to it around the Philly area, but the other (perhaps main) reason is that it appears the “sure thing” customers the pipeline had lined up weren’t such a sure thing after all:
The proposed 120-mile-long Commonwealth Pipeline project, scheduled to run from Lycoming County to several connections with pipelines in southeastern Pennsylvania, has been suspended indefinitely.
The announcement was posted on the project’s website, www.commonwealthpipeline.com.
According to earlier presentations the pipeline was expected to travel through North Coventry, South Coventry, Warwick and West Vincent townships. The 30-inch pipeline would also cross at least four exceptional value streams throughout the northern part of the county, including French Creek and Rock Run Creek, on the way to a compression station in Upper Uwchlan. Other affected areas would include the Hopewell Big Woods, French Creek State Park, Warwick County Park, Ryerss’ Farm for Aged Equines and Ludwig’s Corner. Part of the pipeline would also be interred next to the Weatherstone development, which hosts 270 homes, a library and an elementary school.
While representatives for the project had reached out to municipalities to discuss the proposed project, the next step, pre-filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, was not taken prior to the project’s suspension.
The pipeline was supported by three major partners: Inergy Midstream LP, which develops and operates natural gas and natural gas liquids storage and transportation; UGI Energy Services Inc., which owns 14.7 billion cubic feet of underground natural gas storage in north central Pennsylvania and is developing projects throughout the Marcellus Shale area; and WGL Holdings Inc., a natural gas utility and marketing firm.
Lynda Farrell, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Coalition, a nonprofit that seeks to inform the public about pipeline issues, said she was informed by a representative of Inergy that while some basic routes for the project were explored, there are no detailed routing plans and there is currently no further route work.
A project representative, who asked to remain unnamed, said the suspension was because the market for the proposed pipeline has not been developed.
The project garnered significant attention from both residents and elected officials. Both the Chester County Board of Commissioners and State Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26th of North Coventry, wrote letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, asking that the potential harm to the Big Woods be given serious consideration.
“The Big Woods are an ecological marvel of significant scientific research value as it currently exists,” said the letter. “While we realize that all development comes at a cost, it seems to us that the harm to the Big Woods is simply too steep a cost to pay.”
A date for the resumption of pipeline planning has not been announced.*
*West Chester (PA) Daily Local News (Apr 18, 2013) – Commonwealth Pipeline project suspended indefinitely