BY MARK TODD
Originally Posted December 7th, 2017
NORTH KINGSVILLE — A proposed $86 million pipeline proponents say will address a natural gas shortage in the northeast corner of Ashtabula County could be operational in one year, according to information shared at a project open house Tuesday night in North Kingsville.
“We hope to get approval (for the project) by June 1, start construction in July and have the pipeline in by the end of next year,” Øivind Risberg, of RH energytrans, told more than 100 in attendance at the event. “So far, so good.”
RH energytrans, which will build the pipeline dubbed the Risberg Line, welcomed dozens of government officials, affected landowners and interested residents to the the open house at Water’s Catering. The Erie, Pennsylvania-based company plans to attach 28 miles of new, 12-inch pipe to an existing line at a point near Meadville, Pennsylvania. The new portion would travel about 16 miles in a northwestern direction through Pennsylvania before entering Ohio in Conneaut near Baldwin Road. For stretches of the remaining 12 miles, the pipe would hug Interstate 90 and railroad tracks in Kingsville Township and North Kingsville as well as transverse private property. The terminus is in North Kingsville at a spot near the CSX Railway crossing on Route 193, according to maps on display at the open house.
About 30 percent of the proposed pipeline parallels existing roads and railroads, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Planning for the pipeline began two years ago, while negotiations for right-of-way agreements with affected landowners started a year ago, officials have said. Some 100 parcels in Ohio and Pennsylvania could be involved. Construction of the pipeline would affect about 242 acres of land for above-ground facilities, access roads and the line itself, according to the FERC document. Once the pipe is in place and operational, RH would retain about 171 acres “for permanent operation of the project’s facilities,” while the balance of the land would revert back to its original use. The pipeline would deliver an estimated 55 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day, according to FERC. Dominion Energy would be the primary beneficiary of the pipeline, RH officials have said.
“Dominion had the foresight to see what was needed,” Risberg told the crowd in his opening remarks. Some flexibility would be built into the line to allow an increased capacity of natural gas “if there is demand down the road,” he said.
Risberg, a native of Norway, said he has done business in the region since 1996 and has worked out of Erie since 2011.
“This is a big project for RH,” he said.
Officials who attended the open house backed the pipeline project, saying shortages of natural gas volume in the area have hindered economic development in the past. In Conneaut, one industrial expansion project was scuttled several years ago for lack of natural gas.
“(The pipeline) will improve our infrastructure for current business and future development,” said North Kingsville Mayor Timothy Zee.
North Kingsville Council member Ronald McVoy called the project “a very big win-win for the county.” Council member Mike Fitchet agreed.
“We’ve lost out over the years,” Fitchet said. “It’s a stepping stone.”
Conneaut City Council President Deborah Newcomb said she believes the pipeline will help the city better market its East Conneaut Industrial Park near the Pennsylvania state line.
“It can be a huge benefit to not only our community but the surrounding communities,” she said.
Jim Thompson, of Conneaut, was at the open house to learn more about the project.
“I would like to see things happen,” he said.
An extensive environmental study will precede any permit approval from governmental regulatory agencies. A wide range of possible impacts, from water resources and wildlife to geology and air quality, will be examined, according to the FERC document.
“RH takes the environment seriously,” Risberg said. “I will make sure not to do anything [to the impacted parcels] that I would not do with my own property.”
Larry Frimerman, Ashtabula County Metroparks executive director, was at the open house and said the pipeline project doesn’t appear to affect any of Metroparks’ holdings in the area. Newcomb said she was happy to see RH has a staff of planners specializing in environmental matters.
“It’s always a question, dealing with the environment,” she said.