Originally posted on March 12th, 2018

A federal environmental review schedule announced for the $86 million Risberg Line project could make it difficult — but not impossible — to complete construction of the natural gas pipeline this year, a spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced its timetable for the environmental review that routinely accompanies such projects. FERC will issue its environmental assessment on June 29.

Three months later, on Sept. 27, comes the federal authorization decision deadline for the project. Before then, all agencies involved in the decision-making process must have handed in their reviews and reports, according to the FERC notice.

The dates are not carved in stone, according to FERC.

“If a schedule change becomes necessary, additional notice will be provided so that the relevant agencies are kept informed of the project’s progress,” according to the notice.

RH energytrans is hopeful the agencies won’t need the full 90 days allotted them to submit their reports, meaning a final decision sooner than later, said Dennis Holbrook, spokesperson for RH energytrans, the Erie, Pennsylvania developer of the Risberg Line.

“We hope to see the process to commence final approval in the latter part of summer,” he said. “By midsummer we should have a pretty good gauge on progress.”

Ideally, construction could commence in September, Holbrook said. Last year, RH officials said they hoped to begin work sometime in the summer.

“One thing you learn involving major construction is that there will always be challenges in timing,” Holbrook said. “We are cautiously optimistic.”

If installation can be completed this year, restoration of property affected by the construction would be done next spring, Holbrook said.

RH was pleased to see FERC announce its environmental review schedule.

“Now we’ve been given a date,” he said. “It starts the clock.”

At issue is a project designed to boost natural gas supplies in Ashtabula County. RH energytrans proposes attaching 28 miles of new, 12-inch pipe to an existing pipe that now ends in Meadville, Pennsylvania. The new portion would travel about 16 miles in a northwestern direction through Pennsylvania before entering Ohio in Conneaut near Baldwin Road.

Once in Ohio, the pipe would extend another 12 miles through Conneaut and Kingsville Township before reaching its terminus in North Kingsville at a spot near the CSX Railway crossing on Route 193. About 30 percent of the proposed pipeline parallels roads and railroads, according to FERC

Planning for the pipeline began a few years ago, officials said. Some 100 parcels in Ohio and Pennsylvania are 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.

Local officials who attended an RH open house in December said the lack of natural gas has hurt economic development in the county.

“It can be a huge benefit not only to our community but surrounding communities,” Conneaut City Council President Deborah Newcomb said at the time.