A ‘rural lifestyle’ no more?

January 26, 2014

The tranquility of rural living in Greene County is being disrupted by encroaching industrialization. At least that’s the impression we came away with following a hearing last week on a plan by Equitrans, LP to expand its Jefferson compressor station.

The hearing was held by the state Department of Environmental Protection on a proposal by Equitrans to expand the station on Denny Hill Road in Jefferson Township by installing a new 16,301 horsepower natural gas turbine at the site for increased natural gas compression.

Initially, we thought the Jefferson Volunteer Fire Company fire hall would be packed with residents voicing opposition to the proposal, but only nine residents showed up and four offered testimony.

But just because fewer people than we expected showed up does not diminish the concerns the residents expressed, particularly potential harmful emissions and increased noise.

We were particularly taken with testimony from Karen and Dale Knisely, who moved to Ridge Road, about one-third of a mile from the station, more than seven years ago.

There were no gas compressor stations there at the time.

Now there are two: Equitrans’ Jefferson station and an ECA compressor station, which is within sight of their home. “They took a nice rural area and have turned it into an industrial area,” Karen Knisely said.

The family is concerned about health issues associated with plant emission.

Her son developed chronic sinus problems and all members of the family have at times experienced dizziness and numbness of the lips, she said.

Then there is the noise “24/7,” she said. Noise levels measured at her porch have been as high as 40 and 50 decibels and reached 70 decibels during gas blow-offs, making it impossible for the family to enjoy being outdoors around their home.

These concerns sound quite similar to those expressed by environmental activists opposing the coal-fired Hatfield’s Ferry power plant in Monongahela Township.

In this case, however, it was not so much the noise, but what was being spewed from the large cooling towers.

Hatfield’s Ferry is history now, closed in July by FirstEnergy citing weak demand, low prices and the costs of complying with environmental regulations.

But earlier this month two legislators, state Rep. Pam Snyder and state Sen. Tim Solobay, questioned the closing in light of the grid operator’s request during a cold snap for people to conserve power.

We need to make it clear that comparing Hatfield’s Ferry and the Jefferson compressor station is an apples and oranges argument.

Hatfield’s Ferry produced electricity, while the compressors are part of the pipeline infrastructure to move natural gas from one place to another.

The manager of the compressor design group for EQT said at the hearing that the new turbine will employ “best available technology” to control emissions.

It will be installed in an addition that will be built to an existing building to help reduce noise.

Insulation on the building and silencers on the equipment will ensure noise levels comply with federal and township noise regulations.

Also, a DEP environmental engineer said the company’s proposed plan complies with all applicable environmental regulations.

It’s pretty clear the expansion will be approved and we hope the DEP and Equitrans heard the voices of residents loud and clear.

We also hope that noise and emission mitigation measures be implemented.

But as Jefferson Township Supervisor Mickey Dikun said, “They live in the country, then all of sudden this happens to them.”

The Knisleys and others chose a rural lifestyle and they should have no regrets in making that decision.



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