Energy Sovereignty

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

How a Draft Ordinance Becomes a Local Law – May 30, 2013

Documents in this post were retrieved during a Right-to-Know review session on May 28, 2013. For correspondents’ job titles, please see the “Who’s Who” list at the Right-to-Know page.

I’m mostly trying to track down how, when and by whom the Right-of-Way Ordinance #2005 was drafted. Ordinance #2005 was presented by staff to Borough Council, and adopted by Council via roll call vote, on November 19, 2012: IX.A Rights-of-Way Excavation and Occupancy Ordinance. Meeting minutes are not yet posted, so we’d need to watch the video to find out how the Council members voted.

Ordinance #2005 replaced Ordinance #232, which was adopted in 1940 and only regulated excavations.

My current goal is to figure out, once we’ve written an ordinance to implement locally-controlled energy systems – formalizing the community responsibilities that go along with the the Community Bill of Rights – how long will it take to get it presented to and passed by Borough Council?

If Ordinance 2005 is any indication of the process involved, it could take as little as two months.

So far, I’ve reviewed several of Borough Engineer Amy Kerner’s early drafts plus Borough Solicitor Terry Williams’ responses and revision suggestions for Kerner’s October 5, 2012 draft. State College Ordinance #2005 seems to be derived from a November 2, 2004 template from Hampton, Virginia. A second, generic draft, dated April 11, 2008, doesn’t specify any municipality. Kerner’s earliest draft with the Borough of State College specified is dated September 26, 2012, five days after Tom Fountaine saw Ford Stryker and learned that Penn State had chosen the Prospect Avenue route for the gas pipeline.

Prompting the question…

What if the Borough Council hadn’t updated Ordinance 232 by adopting Ordinance 2005? Did 232 require a local permit application and even the limited local health, safety and welfare review required by 2005? It certainly seems possible that Ordinance 2005 – along with the Bill of Rights – helped create the crucial window of opportunity (to not-approve the Columbia Gas permit application) courageously taken by Borough Manager Tom Fountaine at the request of the Borough Council and in response to strong, organized community pressure.


July 17, 2012 – Tom Fountaine Email to Mark Whitfield (7.17.12 Fountaine to Whitfield)

“Mark, I ran into Mike Desmond today and he was asking about the status of the SCBWA water line project on College Ave. and the gas line construction in connection with the PSU project. Do you have any updates on these projects?”

July 18, 2012 – Mark Whitfield Email to Tom Fountaine

“Yes. Amy [Kerner] met with psu on Monday. They still have not made a decision but are pretty much ruling out college ave. water auth will not do college ave till 2014 unless psu changes their mind and comes up college next year.”

September 5, 2012 – Mark Whitfield Email to Max Gill at State College Borough Water Authority.

“…We are in the process of revising our street occupancy permits, and we will be adding language regarding the complete resurfacing of streets when a there are more than 3 trenches across and a long parallel trench line…”

September 21, 2012 – Tom Fountaine Email to Mark Whitfield (9.21.12 Fountaine to Whitfield)

“…By the way, I saw Ford Stryker today and he told me that PSU is planning to run the gas line on Prospect, with construction next summer.”

September 21, 2012 – Mark Whitfield Email to Tom Fountaine

“Good. Another street we won’t need to pave.”

October 2, 2012 – Mark Whitfield Email to Tom Fountaine (10.2.12 Whitfield to Fountaine)

“Just saw Rob [Cooper] at the Weis store. He said they are still keeping the gas line project somewhat quiet. I suggested they may want to reconsider the proposed meeting with David Gray. Rob said he would make a recommendation to postpone that meeting.” (See also10.11.12 Cooper to Whitfield)

December 4, 2012 – Tom Daubert Email to Tom Fountaine (12.4.12 Fountaine to Whitfield)

“The radio this morning said the gas line project for the University will take till Spring 2015 to complete. Do we have any control to protect the neighborhoods? Neighborhood meetings are not the whole answer. Can Council be briefed? Do they need Borough permission?”

December 4, 2012 – Tom Fountaine Email to Mark Whitfield

[Note: The italicized portion below is probably a combination of Tom’s draft in blue font and Mark’s comments in red font, indecipherable in the email text because many of the emails I’ve been getting are formatted in html code; I’ve been stripping out the code to post documents that are readable, but have not been able to capture any font color changes.]

Mark, this is my draft response to Tom Daubert’s terse email about the PSU project. Is this accurate? Anything you would add or change?

Tom, we will ask the university to provide a briefing to Council in January or February. PSU has briefed the Mayor. Also, at the B/U Liaison meeting [November 9], Ford Stryker provided an overview of the project for the three Council members that attended.

I know that the full Council and I will [?] Ford to attend a regular council meeting and provide a more comprehensive briefing.

While the entire natural gas conversion project conversion will take until the spring of 2015, the installation of the gas line in Borough streets will be completed in the summer of 2013. Each block will take about 10 days to install the line. In addition, Columbia will also be replacing bad curbs and installing handicapped ramps at each intersection as part of the project.

On several sections, the water authority will be replacing mains, and we have a couple of bad sewers that will be addressed. Once all work is completed, the street will be resurfaced (at Columbia Gas expense). We anticipate the resurfacing to be completed in the summer of 2014. Our goal is this will be a once-and-done project, and no utility or street work will need to be completed for the next 25 – 30 years.

The installation of the gas line on Prospect is supposed to go much more quickly. According to the university, they expect each block to take about 10 days to complete. As each section is completed, it will reopen and then at the end of the project, the street will be reconstructed with all new curb, gutter and pavement.

The installation of the gas line is subject to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. The Borough cannot deny access to the right-of-way for a PUC regulated utility. However, the contractor must comply with the State College right-of-way ordinance.

PSU and the representatives from the gas company provided a briefing to the affected neighborhood prior to the Board of Trustee meeting. The university was criticized by some in the neighborhood as being too late with the briefing, and then not providing adequate notice. It is my understanding that PSU has agreed to meet again with the neighborhood in January or February, once a more firm construction schedule is completed. Work will begin in the field when weather breaks in March. before the project starts

It is my understanding that the 2015 completion date is for the entire project. The installation of the gas main on Bellaire and Prospect is expected to move much more quickly and the schedule is significantly reduced over the alternative route that was also considered on College Avenue. The College Avenue route was expected to take two construction seasons (2013 & 2014) to complete.

The Bellaire/Prospect/Burrowes route is anticipated to be completed within a single construction season (2013) and as I noted above, construction of each segment is only expected to take about 10 days, give or take, to complete.

This is about as much as I know right now. Rob Cooper from PSU OPP and Ford Stryker have been discussing the project with us.

The installation of the gas line, however is a Columbia Gas project, and We will continue to work closely with them and do everything we can legally do to make sure the project creates the least amount of disruption possible.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have other questions.

March 28, 2013 – Mark Whitfield Email to Tom Fountaine and Terry Williams (3.28.13 Whitfield to Williams.Fountaine)

“Terry and Tom,

I spoke with the President of Columbia Gas today, a Mr. Mark Kempic. They have great reservations on waiting an additional 30 days, with the greatest fear being that in 30 days they will be in litigation any ways.

He did give me their calculated loss figure of $75,000 for each week they are delayed. While they could delay for a week or two, and absorb the loss, they did not believe that waiting 30 days was doable.

The loss figure is for the amount of additional overtime they would need to pay in order to have gas flowing to the University by October 31, 2013.

Additionally, it was his belief that if this was to be litigated regardless, the sooner the matter is taken to court, the better. Based on his comments, they are prepared to fight this out in court, no matter the basis of the permit denial.

The remainder of the conversation was around their presentation for Monday night.”


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