Originally Posted on July 10th, 2018 by Matt Hutton
The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has completed its environmental assessment of the $86 million Risberg Line natural gas pipeline project, clearing the path for the project’s approval, expected in September.
“The FERC staff concludes that approval of the proposed project, with appropriate mitigating measures, would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the natural and human environment,” FERC Secretary Kimberly D. Bose wrote.
The project is 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.
Conneaut City Manager James Hockaday called the Risberg project “the most significant economic development project to happen in my 10 years in Ashtabula County.”
He also noted FERC approval starts a 90-day comment period that will precede a final decision.
Dennis Holbrook, spokesperson for RH Energytrans, the Erie, Pennsylvania developer of the Risberg Line, said given FERC’s positive environmental assessment, which was issued June 29, the expectation is the project will get the green light.
“That’s your hope and that’s the expectation, yes,” he said. “But the process does allow them to send out to any agencies they haven’t heard back from. We’re cautiously optimistic we will soon have our certificate.”
FERC has until Sept. 27, but Holbrook is hoping the approval will come earlier in the month.
“We’re anticipating, even if they take the full 90 days, that we’ll still commence construction almost immediately,” he said.
Pipeline construction should take four to five months, depending on the weather.
“If we start at end of September, that pushes us into February. If we can get a little earlier jump start, we could target something closer to the end of the calendar year,” he said.
Once the pipeline is ready to go, he said there will continue to be some remedial work done in the spring that can’t be done during the winter months, and the landowners of the more than 100 parcels involved in Ohio and Pennsylvania are aware.
“Obviously those are all positive signs moving forward in that process. We’ve seen no indication there’s going to be any regulatory issues that are going to (hold up) that process,” said Greg Myers, Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County executive director. “There is nothing out of the approval on the 29th that would give any indications that we’re not full steam ahead on this.”
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.
“I’m very excited to see the project moving forward,” Commissioner Casey Kozlowski said. “I think it’s going to help meet natural gas needs here in Ashtabula County. I think it’s something that’s desperately needed as we look to bring new business into Ashtabula County. Having this critical infrastructure is a must.”
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.
Holbrook said community feedback regarding the project has “been phenomenal.” RH officials have attended open houses and had meetings with small groups.
He said one consistent question has been whether the project would benefit local employers. Wood Group and Elite Group, both out of Pittsburgh, have been hired as contractors and the steel for the project will come from a group out of Western Pennsylvania as well.
“We are employing local folks. We hire the contractors and they hire people they’re going to use and they all have local connections in the region. … We’ve hired some highly skilled contractors with a wealth of experience in this area. We’re using domestic steel, people should have a lot of confidence in it. We’ll be out there every step of the way to make sure they’re doing what is expected of them,” Holbrook said.
Myers said the construction alone would have “a tremendous impact on the county” as it will bring in the construction workers who will stay overnight in the area.
“It’s creating economic impacts right away,” he said.
Myers said have a projected timeline for the pipeline and not hitting any regulatory snags “does keep us at the table” when having discussions about potential projects that could start in Ashtabula County in the next 18 to 24 months.
“It allows us to compete for attraction and expansion. … It’s industrial level infrastructure that can support existing business expansion and it is more of an asset for industrial users when it comes to this attraction piece,” he said.
Myers said having natural gas capacity with other industrial infrastructure, such as the railroad, puts the county at a “competitive advantage for certain core industry segments.”
“It’s the last piece of the puzzle to show them Ashtabula County is a great place to do business,” he said.