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Monday Morning Pipeline News - May 20, 2013

(Crossposted from State College Energy Sovereignty Task Force)

CITIZEN ACTION

Residents are beginning to coalesce around the idea of pushing for a community-controlled sustainable energy planning process that includes enforcement teeth. CELDF has draft ordinances that we might use to continue empowering our community to actively protect our own health, safety and welfare.

For more information about how and why we currently lack state and federal legal authority to protect our own health, safety and welfare, sign up for the June 14 – 15 State College area Democracy School. The workshop will cover the local State College Community Bill of Rights, the historical forces that drove the 2011 campaign, and how the bill of rights can be used to build a sustainable energy future for the Borough. Scholarships are available. To sign up contact Joe Cusumano.

Too Soon to Tell - Rebecca Solnit, writing at TomDispatch:

“…There’s the people’s history, the counterhistory that you didn’t necessarily get in school and don’t usually get on the news: the history of the battles we’ve won, of the rights we’ve gained, of the differences between then and now that those who live in forgetfulness lack. This is often the history of how individuals came together to produce that behemoth civil society, which stands astride nations and topples regimes — and mostly does it without weapons or armies. It’s a history that undermines most of what you’ve been told about authority and violence and your own powerlessness.

Civil society is our power, our joy, and our possibility, and it has written a lot of the history in the last few years, as well as the last half century. If you doubt our power, see how it terrifies those at the top, and remember that they fight it best by convincing us it doesn’t exist. It does exist, though, like lava beneath the earth, and when it erupts, the surface of the earth is remade…”

OFFICIAL ACTION

Borough Council

Borough Council met in executive session last week to discuss possible litigation. A related item is on tonight’s regular Council meeting agenda:

X. Official Reports and Correspondence…B. President’s Report - Borough Council met in an Executive Session last week to discuss possible litigation.

Safety Oversight

  • Under state and federal law, the State College Borough Council, State College Planning Commission and State College Planning Department have no role in safety assessments, compliance, planning or permitting. Likewise, project customers (Penn State) and designers (Buchart Horn) have no safety expertise, oversight or legal obligations. [Under local law, they all have safety oversight and legal jurisdiction.]
  • IF there are any safety standards and reviews, they fall under the PA Uniform Construction Code, and are conducted by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (air, water, soil and public health effects of emissions) and the PA Department of Labor and Industry (proper construction of fuel tanks).
  • Columbia Gas officials have argued that they are subject to self-regulation, to ensure their own compliance with federal PHMSA regulations under the US Department of Transportation, and that they are subject to oversight from the PA Public Utilities Commission. The PA-PUC disclaims oversight jurisdiction; issue under investigation.
  • The State College Zoning Hearing Board held a hearing late last year and gave PSU a variance for the height of the exhaust stacks, which will exceed UPD zoning district height limitations. Residents who object to actions taken by Planning Department staff and/or the Zoning board may file appeals. Appeal deadline may be limited to 30 days from the decisions; standing may be limited to property owners within 200 feet of the plant. Further procedural details unknown at this time.

ENGINEERING

  • Penn State  has a Seven Year Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan calling for a 17.5% reduction in seven years, and an alternatives analysis document for the West Campus Steam Plant conversion. Neither document is currently available to the public.
  • To meet the goal of 80 – 90% emissions reductions in 40 years, Penn State and the Borough will both need to reduce emissions by 3 to 5% every year.
  • Columbia Gas and Penn State are still examining alternative routes for the 12″/400 psi pipeline, focusing on a north side entry at the West Campus Steam Plant. If they commit to that route, the plant design plans will need to be reworked.
  • Each of the two gas-fired boilers planned for Phase 1 only needs 45 psi of natural gas supply; a future phase will add a third 6 megawatt gas-fired turbine.
  • Penn State will not be the only end user of the new supply; the conversion project includes  installation/upgrade to Columbia Gas distribution hub facilities that “step down” the pressure from the 12-inch pipeline, send a portion of the gas to the steam boilers, and send the rest of the gas back out of the plant into distribution pipes to provide gas service to homes and businesses on the southwest side of State College.
  • Two 20,000-gallon above-ground diesel fuel tanks will be installed on the site to run generators.

RIGHT TO KNOW

Legislation to apply Right to Know to Penn State goes to the PA House in a couple of weeks, from there to Senate and then to Corbett.

State College Zoning Hearing Board, PA Department of Environmental Protection, and PA Department of Labor & Industry have all reviewed portions of the pipeline and steam plant conversion plans; some of their records, analysis and conclusions may be available via Right-to-Know requests.

MEDIA

Centre Daily Times

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