Monday Morning Pipeline News – May 6, 2013
May 6 – Borough Council Meeting Tonight at 7:30
(From Smita Bharti)
“We have an upcoming Borough Council meeting this monday (5/6) at 7:30 pm. We are hoping to see a good turnout of citizens so that we can show solidarity with the Borough Council and Borough Manager, who have listened to our concerns and acted on it…Regarding the letter from Columbia Gas, while the first section is procedural, the second section is not. The casual disregard to citizens’ safety concerns, the repeated assertions that Borough has no rights to take any steps based on safety (all such rights are preempted by State and federal laws), and the supremacy of Columbia’s rights are insulting. Bill of Rights is dismissed in the letter as well…Please attend tonight in large numbers, and please speak if possible during the public hour. Everyone is watching to see our moves.”
Several residents spoke at last week’s Penn State Board of Trustees meeting in Dean’s Hall at the Penn Stater Conference Center, focusing on issues of university-community relations and transparency.
Ford Stryker (PSU VP Physical Plant) also made a presentation to the Trustees regarding next steps for the West Campus Steam Plant conversion project, summarized by Vincent Crespi:
- Penn State got an agreement with Columbia Gas for a 90-day delay in implementing their service agreement.
- Office of Physical Plant leaders expect that engineering analysis of new routes will take 60 days or so, meaning roughly one more month.
- Office of Physical Plant leaders will return to the Board of Trustees at their July meeting with results of engineering analysis for approval of plans.
June 14 & 15 – Democracy School
Organizers have scheduled a State College area Democracy School for June 14 and 15, 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. Scholarships are available for anyone interested in attending. To sign up for the Democracy School, contact Joe Cusumano. To request a scholarship, contact me.
We’re still sorting through public records, but the general outline of the process between October 10, 2012 and May 2013 is now fairly complete, posted at a new page: Procedural Record.
One especially interesting finding last week was the 10.25.12 PowerPoint Slides presentation, which supports the conclusion that residents were not informed about the diameter of the pipeline, the pressure of the pipeline, the accurate classification of the pipeline (transmission), nor were they informed about the planning, permitting and construction details of the project.
I’m interested in pursuing the procedural history that led to the State College Borough Council’s November 19, 2012 adoption of the Right of Way Ordinance (#2005) and have also filed a Right-to-Know request with the PA Public Utilities Commission for information about notice provided February 26, 2013 and a meeting held March 19, 2013:
No lawsuits have been filed yet, to my knowledge, but Columbia Gas issued a letter from an attorney last week:
And the Borough issued a press release regarding the letter
For reference, several Council members and Mayor Goreham contributed ideas to support the non-approval of the pipeline permit application (transcribed from undated hard copy):
Discovery Tools in Civil Litigation
- initial disclosures
- depositions – “the out-of-court oral testimony of a witness that is reduced to writing”
- interrogatories – “a formal set of written questions propounded by one litigant and required to be answered by an adversary, in order to clarify matters of fact…”
- request for admissions – “a set of statements sent from one litigant to an adversary, for the purpose of having the adversary admit or deny the statements…”
- request for production of documents – “a legal request for documents, electronically stored information, or other tangible items…”
Not much news on the engineering front, but Councilwoman Sarah Klinetob emailed Mark Whitfield last fall (Sarah Klinetob Email) regarding a “community energy inventory:”
“I was wondering how useful you think something like this would be. Here is an example from Salem, Oregon and a document that generally outlines how one would conduct such a study. It would seem as if a good portion of the data could be obtained from the local utilities (as opposed to going door to door), that it would provide a tangible baseline for our sustainability goals, as well as be a useful educational tool for residents.”
That’s an idea well worth pursuing now, as a key step in building energy sovereignty in State College and strengthening our capacity to resist fossil fuel infrastructure encroachment in the future.
May 1 Planning Commission Meeting
Susan Venegoni attended the meeting and reported there was some discussion of the West Campus Steam Plant conversion. Evidently, the Planning Commission has asked for Penn State to come and describe in detail the work at the West Power Plant, and they are hedging on making that presentation.
As of April 29, Anne Messner told Susan that the zoning permit for work at the power plant has not been issued yet, and that it only needs to be issued before work that changes the footprint of the building begins. The land use plan is still under review, and the Borough is waiting for concerns/deficiencies to be addressed by PSU. Anne apparently told Susan the project (building permits, inspections, etc.) will not go through the Centre Region Council of Governments like a normal Borough construction project, but rather through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Susan asked if Labor & Industry had a local office or if this was at the state level, housed in Harrisburg; Anne said she’s not aware of a local office.
Residents are pondering:
- West Campus Steam Plant – Has the site been assessed for possible environmental contaminations? With 70 years of coal ash it is a concern, and EPA might want to get involved if there is a major renovation. It may also turn out to be grounds for asking EPA for more time to met MACT, and regardless if there is a significant chance for the presence of significant contaminants, it would be good to initiate a process to assess or confirm lack thereof. (EPA National Response Center Hotline, 1-800-424-8802)
Centre Daily Times
- 5.1.13 – A community taking action, by Katherine Watt
- 5.3.13 – Columbia Gas asks State College to cancel original pipeline application
- 5.1.13 – Leaky Buckets: EPA admits possible flaws in methane emissions report
- 5.3.13 – Columbia Gas attempts to ‘negotiate’ with borough
- 5.6.13 – Borough interests must be protected if Columbia Gas wants ‘backsies’