New Castle News

Closer Look

September 11, 2013

Columbia to replace Union gas lines

NEW CASTLE — Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania intends to replace more than 4,000 feet of natural gas pipeline in Union Township.

The project, to begin next spring, is one of several planned or already under way in Lawrence County as the company upgrades gas distribution lines that are old and becoming worn out, explained Sarah M. Perry a gas company representative.

In a letter to the township and the county commissioners, Columbia Gas said it is applying to the state Department of Environmental Protection to replace an existing 6-inch steel gas distribution line with an 8-inch-round steel pipeline. The old line will be abandoned.

According to a letter from company engineer Joshua B. Carmichael, the project will begin near the intersection of Harbor Road and English Avenue and follow an existing 50-foot right-of-way through several private properties before paralleling Scotland Lane. There it will tie into an existing pipeline.

The project will temporarily affect sections of the Shenango River and wetlands. Potential impacts to threatened or endangered bat species will be avoided by cutting trees only between Nov. 16 and March 31.

The company is spending more than $150 million on infrastructure replacement in Pennsylvania this year Perry said., adding, “this doesn’t have anything to do with Marcellus Shale.”

Columbia Gas owns 7,400 miles of pipe across the state. Of that, about 1,700 miles has seen decades of use, “and it’s coming to the end of its useful life,” Perry said. “Our goal is to replace at least 100 miles of pipe per year.”

Columbia Gas has spent more than $4 million statewide on its natural gas delivery system, replacing more than 2.3 million feet of pipe from 2007 through 2012.

This year, the company is investing an estimated $150 million in infrastructure and upgrades, Perry said, including  one in Wampum and several in New Castle.

Funding became available as the result of the company’s most recent rate increase case, Perry said.

In May the Public Utility Commission approved a settlement between Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania and the parties in its base rate case.

Under new rates that became effective July 1, the average total bill for a residential customer who purchases 73 therms of gas per month would increase by about $11.

Perry said the rate increase approved, “is a reasonable return for the company’s significant investment in Pennsylvania,” Perry added.

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