Plans to replace an aging natural gas transmission pipeline beneath the Meadowbrook neighborhood in North Strabane Township has provoked both fears and questions from residents concerned about how it will disrupt their community.
Columbia Gas Transmission representatives Tuesday night spoke to residents about the three potential routes through the neighborhood as part of the company’s $130 million project to “modernize” lines through Washington, Greene and Allegheny counties.
The “bare steel” transmission line beneath the property that is now Meadowbrook was installed more than 60 years ago and is just one section of the company’s sprawling Tri-County Replacement Project. Jerry Castillo, the company’s director of land and natural resources permitting, took the brunt of the questions as residents asked for the meeting to be handled like a public hearing rather than one-on-one questioning.
“Where we are at is a process where we’re gathering information,” Castillo said. “We’re very early.”
But the process and lack of information is what concerned the residents. The back-and-forth turned testy as residents pushed the company representatives for more answers.
The biggest complaint was about two proposals that would take the line directly through the neighborhood. The majority of the 50 residents who attended the two-hour meeting with company instead asked for it to use a third route that would take the pipeline through the Meadows Casino parking lot.
“It looks like there’s a lot less intrusion that way through (the Meadows Casino) parking lot,” said Mike Mistik, who lives on Pacers Ridge Drive and is a member of the Meadowbrook community board. “It seems like a no-brainer. Going through the neighborhood would be terrible.”
Company spokeswoman Angela Braun said employees are investigating all options and will choose the route based on a variety of factors including homeowners’ feedback, worker safety and environmental disruption.
“That’s why we make sure we do our due diligence to make sure we take the route of least resistance,” Braun said. “I think you can tell by the turnout that people love their neighborhood and we want to be good neighbors.”
Company representatives admitted they are engaged in discussions with the casino owners on the third route beneath the parking lot, but could not say if that would be the desired path.
The company said it is expected to settle on a route when it holds an open house on June 19 at the Canonsburg Veterans Association at 539 W. Pike St. Even then, the ultimate decision to grant or deny the route permit will be left to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The application process is expected to take years and the construction likely won’t begin until 2017.