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Despite local opposition federal government may okay pipeline


Fierce local opposition to the proposed West Rockhill compressor station may not matter in Washington.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will have the final say on the facility, has been found to have strong ties to the energy industry, and some fear its reputation as a nonpartisan body has been compromised.

Last week, the Senate approved President Trump’s nominee, Bernard McNamee, to FERC on a party-line vote. McNamee, on record as a strong supporter of fossil fuels such as gas and coal, would be unlikely to oppose Adelphia Gateway’s proposed natural gas pipeline.

Another Trump nominee, Republican Chairman Neil Chatterjee, and fellow Republican Commissioner Kevin McIntyre have repeatedly refused to consider the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from pipeline projects despite concerns raised again by residents at last week’s state DEP hearing about these and other pollutants.

Cathy Weierbach, who lives about 500 feet away from the facility, said any chemical releases would impact her well and her family’s health.

Another of the more than two-dozen speakers, Shirley Mann, agreed.

“There are children living in this neighborhood. What will happen 10 years down the road if they breathe in these toxic pollutants?”

Adelphia spokesperson Katelyn Howard said Monday the current site on Rich Hill Road was chosen because an existing infrastructure was already in place, thus minimizing the impact on the surrounding environment. She said any alternative sites “would require larger equipment resulting in greater emissions.” Howard said the company had made a number of modifications to address noise concerns.

Resident Robert London and Cliff Cole, who lives just over a mile from the station, questioned whether the DEP was doing its job: to protect what he said was a fragile local environment. “Is that really true, or is the fox running the henhouse?” Cole said.

John Polier felt Adelphia’s proposal was a done deal. “I heard the Feds have got this all wrapped up, and you have no say in it. Is this a show?” he pointedly asked DEP representative Jim Rebarchak.

Rebarchak and other officials will consider last week’s comments and those submitted before a Dec. 14 deadline as part of its review of Adelphia’s application.

A 2017 study by the Center for Public Integrity and StateImpact Pennsylvania found that while FERC delays projects, it rarely rejects oil and gas pipelines, and that “dozens of FERC staff members have had to recuse themselves in recent years while negotiating jobs at energy firms.” A majority of commissioners also end up in the energy industry, the study found.

The facilities, estimated to number in the hundreds, maintain a constant pressure on gas and remove any unwanted liquids or solids that accumulate during transport.