Pennsylvania TV Station Looks at Susquehanna Pipeline Project

A Pennsylvania TV station has just completed a rather interesting series about a proposed Susquehanna pipeline project.  The Williams pipeline is called the Atlantic Sunrise Project, and it would bring additional Marcellus Shale  gas to an existing pipeline system called Transco.  The massive Transco pipeline connects the Gulf of Mexico to New York City, and delivers gas to customers all along the way.  Most of the gas used to come from the Gulf and be shipped to the Northeast, but in the future the pipeline may be used primarily to take gas from the Marcellus to the Southeast.

The 178-mile Atlantic Sunrise Project is slated to enter service in 2017, and comes with a great video backgrounder:

WGAL reporter Mike Straub decided to walk along the pipeline and produced a compelling four-part series examining the project and the feelings of the people along an 11-mile portion of the line.

In the first segment, Mr. Straub and a Williams spokesman explain that taking advantage of the shale boom requires new pipelines to connect the Marcellus to markets.  Inevitably, Mr. Straub’s first stop is to visit the family leading the effort to block the pipeline.  The longtime residents do not want a pipeline going through their backyard.

In the next segment, he again hears from concerned families.  He then digs into the thorny issues of eminent domain.  In a tough juxtaposition, a Williams spokesman tries to explain how the company values land while the local family says they would not sell their land for any amount of money.

Mr. Straub did finally find some supporters.  One local family supported the pipeline on ideological grounds, saying that energy is a necessity.  Mr. Straub also points out that the local government has received funding from drilling fees assessed in other parts of the state.  Moreover, once a pipeline is built it blocks many other types of future development.  He also says coal is being pushed “to extinction” and must be replaced by natural gas.

Mr. Straub closes with a look at the relevant policymakers.  He points out that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will make the decision on the pipeline in Washington D.C.  The story gives a decent description of the public process, pointing out that the Commission is the sole decision maker.  He somewhat shortchanges the public process, though, and seems to imply that the FERC commissioners make the decision on their own.

Overall, I think it was a compelling little series that was able to boil down the big-picture issues in an interesting way.