Energy Sovereignty

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

PSU Board of Trustees Pipeline News – July 13, 2013

PSU Coverage:

Centre Daily Times Coverage:

7.12.13 – Johan Zwart’s Public Comments to the Board:

I am here to talk about the West side gas conversion.

Yesterday Mr. Stryker has provided the information that the northern route will cost the university an additional $9.6 million. So it seems like a good idea to begin my discussion by addressing the monetary aspect first. When we heard of this pipeline route, a group of neighbors contacted an appraisal firm to analyze the potential loss of property value due to the increased risk of fire and explosion. A preliminary and conservative calculation based on property market values showed that the total loss of property value of all the properties along this pipeline is $10.4 million. In other words, from a purely monetary standpoint, the northern university route is a better choice.

It is a different matter, that you are currently not expecting to bear the $10.4 million by externalizing it to the residents. Penn State that benefits from this pipeline must bear the cost of the pipeline, not the Borough residents. So I ask you in the interest of doing the right thing to shoulder this financial burden and associated risks of your project rather than externalizing both to the community. The university’s attempt to do this seems very offensive to the Borough residents.

I discussed the geothermal plan that I mentioned to you in the March 15 Board of Trustees meeting with other Penn State employees and experts, I have found that there are people at Penn State who think that a geothermal conversion of the 65 buildings along the chiller loop is a viable alternative. It seems more a problem of inertia where no one wants to take the initiative to push it rather than ability. An exploration space ship the Enterprise had a slogan, “boldly go where no man has gone before.” I would think a fitting proud slogan for a research facility. The plan is available at

Natural gas is highly explosive, and it would take only one accident to prove it to be a wrong choice. A good example of what can go wrong with a large scale industrial facility in a downtown area is the fertilizer plant that recently blew up in West, Texas. An explosion at the West Side Power Plant would potentially result in more casualties and damage. Accidents happen no matter how good the precautions are. The best prevention is to not create the scenario to begin with.

A solution would be to move everything from the west side to the east side. This would be a good option since the East Campus Steam Plant is close to the existing high pressure gas line and is in a less populated area.

A better solution is to upgrade the steam system to a low temperature water system, since the maximum obtainable efficiencies with the low temperature water system are much higher. Efficiencies steam can only dream of.

The concerns voiced about potential pollution of the aquifer because of karst geology can be eliminated. Interesting, karst geology has hollow spaces that could nicely trap and transmit escaping natural gas in case of gas leaks. A firefighting nightmare, Hutchinson Kansas (Jan 17 2001) is a sad example. But accidents aside, an additional benefit of ground loop geothermal conversion is that future solar or process heat can be easily incorporated in this design, impossible with a steam system.

Again, I would like to urge you to do the right thing, and realize that the Borough has already expressed its desire to not have this pipeline run through the community. Many residents have spoken and asked Penn State to be sensitive to their concerns, the Borough Council has heard us. I would like to ask you to also hear what the community has been saying very vocally, and not turn a deaf ear towards us.

Thank you.

Editor’s Note:

I wonder what Penn State’s insurance carriers think of the new plan, and how the PA-Department of Environmental Protection will handle the revised WCSP application in terms of New Source Review – both from an emissions standpoint and from a project cost standpoint.



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