Tempers flare over eminent domain: Hanover PA Evening Sun, 11/3/06

The battle rages on between citizens of Tyrone Township and proponents of a natural-gas compressor station planned near Oxford Road and Route 234

By Tim Pratt

About 30 people attended an informational meeting and question-and-answer session Thursday at the Heidlersburg Volunteer Fire Co.

While a similar public meeting in September focused on the safety of the proposed station, tempers flared Thursday over the prospect of property owners having their land seized by eminent domain for the compressor's power lines.

Some citizens were concerned that power lines needed to power the station would encroach on their property. And they were afraid the 100-foot right of way needed for the lines would result in their land being bought or seized.

"Tell me the difference between eminent domain and a bully in school taking my daughter's lunch money," said Gynn Scott of Oxford Road, speaking to representatives from Duke Energy, the company proposing the station.

"I'm asking you guys on a personal level," Scott said. "How would you feel if somebody came to you and said, 'We're going to give you X amount of money for your land and if you don't like it, we're going to take it'?"

The power lines could go through a portion of Scott's property, as well as the nearby Breighner Estate.

Barbara MacDonald of Lancaster, executor of the Breighner Estate, also made a passionate plea against the possible property seizure.

Supervisor Galen Smith echoed the pair's concerns and asked the energy company to consider a different location for the lines.

"Do you guys realize what you're doing to their property?" Smith asked Duke officials. "You don't want a power line on your right of way, but you're going to take land from them and make their land useless."

Duke officials said if power lines were to be placed over their existing pipeline right of way, the lines could interfere with the pipeline and compressor station's electrical equipment. But they said they are only responsible for the compressor station, not the power lines.

Paul Royer of Duke Energy said using eminent domain to acquire the properties would be "a last resort."

Duke officials said a compressor station is needed every 50 to 70 miles in order to boost pressure and deliver natural gas from Texas to New Jersey and numerous sites throughout the Northeast.

Officials said the existing natural-gas pipelines are losing pressure because of friction in the pipes and increases in the number of locations the pipes are accessed. The nearest compressors are in Chambersburg and Marietta.

According to Duke Energy representatives, Tyrone Township is a prime location for such a compressor.

But Russ Raub of Aspers and many others at the meeting didn't feel that way.

Raub said that the energy company should consider finding a new location, such as an industrial site that is no longer in use.

"The selected site is located in an agricultural-preservation district," Raub said. "An industrial site is not compatible with an agricultural-preservation district. None of the stated accessory uses for land in an agricultural-preservation district includes an industrial site."

And while many were concerned with the safety of the station, Duke officials said the company has never had an explosion at one of its compressor stations. The energy company spoke of the emergency shut-down procedure that would take place if the station were to have a gas leak.

But Dennis Brownawell of White Church Road said the loud noise associated with an emergency shutdown is one of the main reasons he opposes the project. Brownawell has horses on his property and gives riding lessons.

"If there is ever an emergency shut down, you'll hear it short and quick," he said. "It alerts and frightens an animal."

"I will not subject my family or any other human being to what could happen if there is an accident and an emergency shutdown," he added.

Duke Energy is waiting on the necessary approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before beginning construction at the 40-acre property. They also will need to get the land rezoned and get a land-development plan approved by the township.

There are also countless other approvals needed before the compressor station is built, including approvals by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Adams County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission.

Spokesman John Sheridan said he hopes construction will begin on the site this spring with an in-service date of November 2007.

Hanover PA Evening Sun: http://www.eveningsun.com