Energy Sovereignty

Archives from the Stop the PSU Pipeline Campaign and the early days of CITY-GREEN

Monday Morning Pipeline News – April 29, 2013


PSU Master Energy Plan Update

On April 25, residents participated in a pipeline and steam plant conversion debate and forum organized by the PSU Society of Energy Engineers. Key points that emerged while residents reflected on the event:

  1. The Penn State steam system is incompatible with any meaningful climate commitment.
  2. An alternative exists that has a better life-cycle financial cost.

Residents are now considering drafting an open letter to the Board of Trustees (meeting May 3 at the Penn Stater) with two demands:

  • That the Trustees direct Office of Physical Plant planners to factor climate change impacts and potential carbon tax costs for a 30+ year fossil fuel commitment into greenhouse gas emissions reduction and financial cost calculations, and release those calculations to the public.
  • That the Trustees direct Office of Physical Plant planners to perform and publicly release a rigorous feasibility study, including both fuel cost projections reflecting data-driven natural gas price scenarios and production decline rates (79 to 95 percent after three years according to a comprehensive survey of 65,000 oil and gas wells in 31 shale plays), and non-fossil fuel alternatives to meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets and the University’s energy needs over the next 50 years.

When the letter is ready for signatures, I’ll post a link here at Energy Sovereignty.

Democracy School Update

Organizers have scheduled a State College area Democracy School for June 14 and 15, to be catered by Webster’s Bookstore Cafe, giving residents an opportunity to learn more about the State College Community Bill of Rights and how it can be used to build a sustainable energy future for the Borough.

I’m donating funds to cover the tuition cost for anyone interested in attending (residents, elected officials, Borough staff, etc.) Child care will be available for parents of young children who would like to attend. To sign up for the Democracy School, contact Joe Cusumano. To request a scholarship, contact me.

“Democracy School explores the limits of conventional regulatory organizing and offers a new organizing model that helps citizens confront the usurpation by corporations of the rights of communities, people, and the earth. Lectures cover the history of people’s movements and corporate power, and the dramatic recent organizing in Pennsylvania by communities confronting agribusiness, sewage sludge, and quarry corporations.” Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign Update

  • Sofya Raskhodnikova created an online petition urging Penn State to divest from fossil fuel companies at


Gas Service Contract

Apparently Penn State has signed a 30-year contract with Columbia Gas for natural gas supply, running 2013 though 2043. I don’t have a copy of that document to confirm or refute; residents said the information was part of the April 1 Borough Council presentation by PSU-OPP and Columbia Gas representatives.

Fuel Consumption Data

Shelley McKeague, PSU Environmental Compliance Specialist, released fuel consumption data to Matt Dahlhausen last week:

“Attached is a spreadsheet  showing the fuel use at the steam plants 97/98-11/12. Note that this is fuel used at both the East and West Plants, although coal is consumed only at the West Campus Steam Plant.

To answer your question about the slight difference in the GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions you calculated vs what is on the GHG website. The difference is primarily due to the slight difference in the coal emissions factors used in the GHG inventory and the default factors provided in the GHGRP that you used. The GHG Inventory currently uses 2.29 mtCO2e/short ton  for CO2. This was based on a HHV of 24.82  mmBtu/ton at 99% oxidized. Tier 1 under GHGRP uses a default HHV of 24.93 at 100% oxidized.  For GHGRP reporting, Penn State uses Tier 2 for coal with a weighted HHV value based on sampling.”

Option 3 SlideEast Campus Steam Plant Expansion

State College Councilwoman Sarah Klinetob has obtained a single undated slide from PSU-OPP Director Rob Cooper. It appears to be from a PowerPoint presentation that included at least 36 pages, showing a cost summary for “Option 3.” No information was provided about the calculations used to generate the conclusions, or about other options considered, and Option 3 is not defined on the slide.

Members of the community-based engineering team believe that Option 3 refers to expansion of gas turbines and additional steam infrastructure to do all the heating from the East Campus Steam Plant, allowing the West Campus Steam Plant to remain as is, avoiding the need for a gas line running across campus or through the Borough.


Borough Officials

4.27.13 – State College Mayor endorses fossil fuel divestment – “The mayor of the central Pennsylvania borough of State College has endorsed a campaign that urges municipalities to divest from fossil fuel companies, the environmental group said in a release Thursday. Borough Mayor Elizabeth Goreham joined nine other mayors in urging municipalities to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies because of climate change, but other officials said the issue hasn’t been voted on…”

PSU Officials

A State College resident and PSU faculty member posed a pipeline question to President Rodney Erickson at the Faculty Senate meeting on April 23, asking (paraphrased) “…Have we considered alternative plans that might allow us to eventually get rid of the West Campus Steam Plant altogether?”

Erickson’s summarized response (paraphrased):

Geothermal and other renewable energy strategies are not practical on the large scale of the University Park campus. The university is currently committed to converting the West Campus Steam Plant to natural gas and to continuing to use it. The proposed gas line is very safe, not very high pressure at 400 psi, and much safer than some of the other gas lines underneath the Borough. Out of sensitivity to resident and Borough Council concerns, planners are now considering routes through campus that would take longer to build and be more expensive, although planners believed the Borough route would have been least disruptive.

Faculty Senate meeting minutes should be posted soon at the website.


No lawsuits have been filed yet, to my knowledge. At an April 23 meeting with residents and attorney Steve Lachman, Borough Solicitor Terry Williams and Borough Manager Tom Fountaine invited residents to help educate officials about the Community Bill of Rights to develop legal strategies if Penn State and/or Columbia Gas sue the Borough.


Centre Daily Times

Daily Collegian

P.R.E.S.S. Blog – Preserving Rights to Environmental Sustainability and Safety

Discussion on PSU online bulletin boards 



  • Residents are thinking about the repeated claims of Penn State and Borough planners that many of the gas distribution pipelines already under the Borough are old, corroded, leaky and dangerous, asking “are there studies and reports we can review about those subjects?  And what is being done about the other unsafe gas lines underneath the Borough?” Bill McKibben did a recent article about methane leakage in New York City.
  • Pipeline supporters are apparently circulating a rumor that pipeline opponents are “getting money from the Arabs.” Amusing. We’re all volunteers, investing hundreds of unpaid hours of personal time we’d ordinarily be spending on our regular work and with our families.

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