The booming impact of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania will reach Northumberland County if a proposed new pipeline becomes reality.

The "Atlantic Sunrise Project" planned by Williams, a natural gas pipeline company in Tulsa, Okla., would connect the natural gas fields of the northern tier to the existing Transco pipeline, which already distributes natural gas from Pennsylvania to southern states.

Across Upper Road, 901 and 61

Earlier this year, field surveys were done in the areas where the pipeline is proposed. Coal Township received a one-page letter April 17 from the company announcing its intentions, said township manager Rob Slaby.

According to a preliminary map that Williams submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) April 28, part of the 178 miles of new pipeline the company will install will enter Northumberland County from the south in East Cameron Township through State Gameland 84. It would cross Upper Road, before going over the mountain and into Coal Township.

The pipeline will cross Route 901 and an access road for Reinhart FoodService before crossing Route 61 about 600 feet from the Walmart Supercenter and the Plaza at Coal Township (see map on page 12).

"That is a different location from our map," Slaby said. "The map we got looked like it was running in the area of the Kulpmont-Marion Heights Sewage Treatment facility, but it appears that has changed." The treatment facility is less than a mile from Walmart.

The map shows the pipeline continuing north across Route 2026 in the Sagon area before going over another mountain and passing near the Weiser State Forest before crossing into Ralpho Township about 1,600 feet from Timber Road.

The pipeline crosses Schoch Road and curves into Cleveland Township, Columbia County.

It appears few residential areas in East Cameron and Coal Township will be affected, but the map clearly shows the pipeline going through farms and homesteads in Cleveland Township.

Feedback wanted

To help understand the route and process better, the company will hold a series of open houses - one in every Pennsylvania county the pipeline will run through - to give the public the opportunity to meet project personnel, review the maps, learn more about the regulatory process, ask questions and share feedback.

Northumberland County's meeting will be held Wednesday, June 4, at the Wayside Inn, Paxinos. Columbia County's meeting will be Thursday, June 5, at the Bloomsburg Fire Department Social Hall, 911 Market St., Bloomsburg. Schuylkill County's meeting will be held Monday, June 9, at the Tremont Fire Company. All meetings will be from 6 to 8 p.m.

"Williams is dedicated to working with communities to identify facility location that minimize impacts on the community and the environment, while balancing the needs of customers," according to a company press release. "Early involvement from the community helps the company identify and address issues related to project design and location."

In a frequently asked questions section of the project's website - atlanticsun.wpengine.com - the company claims landowners whose property affected by the proposed route will receive a letter and/or personal contact from a Williams land representative notifying them about the surveys.

Once the pre-filing process is started, all potentially affected landowners will receive an information packet from FERC and Williams, which will include the dates and locations of public meetings and instructions for obtaining more information.

Summer of 2016

Before any expansion, pipeline operators must receive a federal Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, along with various state permits. Williams is anticipating filing its application with the FERC in early 2015 and, if approved, construction could start in the summer of 2016 with completion targeted for the latter part of 2017.

Abundant resource

The company says that because of its environmental advantage, natural gas fuels one-third of electric power generation and heats half of all U.S. homes and the numbers are climbing.

"Although the price of natural gas has fallen to historic lows in some regions of the U.S., a lack of sufficient pipeline infrastructure has prevented most consumers from realizing the full economic advantages of this abundant, domestic resource," according to the website.

The Atlantic Sunrise Project is designed to add 1.7 million dekatherms per day of pipeline capacity to the Transco system, enough natural gas to meet the daily need of more than 7 million American homes.

One dekatherm is 1,000 cubic feet of gas and is approximately enough to meet the natural gas needs of an average home (space-heating, water-heating, cooking, etc.) for four days, according to the American Gas Association.

No land purchases

According to Williams, the company will not be looking to purchase any land but to acquire easements with fair compensation for the landowner for the right to construct and operate the underground pipeline.

In fact, the company has established a land office on Schoolhouse Road, Danville as a base of operations for this area, with other project land offices set up in Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre.

If there is an existing easement already in place, Williams said they would need an additional 25 feet of permanent easement for operation and maintenance.

"In areas where there isn't an existing Transco pipeline easement, the width of the new permanent right of way will be limited to 50 feet." Williams said on the site.

The website addresses eminent domain and condemnation and says the company will seek a court order if a landowner doesn't want the pipeline on his land, assuming it is granted federal approval.

"Contrary to the condemnation process that the landowner might experience for a highway, park or other public structure, your land would not be 'taken' from you," according to the website. "The courts would merely grant the right for Williams to construct, operate and maintain the pipeline. The landowner would retain ownership and surface rights of the land as if an easement was granted and the courts would determine fair market value."