Important Public Hearing 9/13/11 in Wyalusing on Pentex Pipeline Company
The decision to allow eminent domain for natural gas gathering pipelines is being considered in a case before the PA Utility Commission. This is of grave importance to not only our local area, but the entire state of Pennsylvania and will be the subject of a public hearing in Wyalusing on Sept. 13. Pentex Pipeline Company has applied with the PUC to provide gathering service in Wyalusing, Herrick, Terry, Tuscarora, Stevens and Wilmot townships in Bradford Co., PA.
Pentex already has the power of eminent domain, having acquired this when it was certified to provide natural gas to Taylor Packing (now Cargill) in 1988. In a 3/31/11 article in the Scranton Times-Tribune on the application, Pentex’s president Mark Casaday is reported to have said that he has never used eminent domain and doesn't plan to. However, in his 7/11/11 Direct Testimony to the PUC, he states “if the commission allows other certificated gathering systems to use eminent domain, then we would request to also have that option if mutually-acceptable arrangements cannot be made with a property owner.” Although this case involves a relatively small area in Bradford Co., the implications reach all of Pennsylvania. The question of whether or not natural gas gathering pipelines are to be categorized by the PUC as public entities (and thus have eminent domain as well as being regulated) is under intense scrutiny right now. A 6/14/11 PUC opinion and order on the precedent setting Laser Northeast Gathering Co. case gave gathering pipelines public utility status, and thus eminent domain, by a three to two vote, but the case is being reconsidered, and there appears to have been intense dissent among the Commissioners.
The Pentex case would have great bearing on the public utility/eminent domain question. It is very critical that many of the public (you, I and our neighbors) attend the local public hearing that Rep. Tina Pickett so kindly arranged right here in Wyalusing. If you have strong feelings about having a choice in whether or not your land could be permanently and significantly altered by the intrusion of a pipeline, I urge you to come to the Wyalusing Community Corp. offices at 20 Main St. in Wyalusing on Tuesday, Sept. 13, convening at 1 p.m. and, after a break, reconvening at 6 p.m. According to a spokesperson at the PUC, one can attend either time slot. There is apparently no need to preregister. One simply signs in on arriving, indicating whether or not you want to speak. There does not yet appear to be a time limit for speaking.