Smith Twp. cryogenic gas plant moves forward

David Singer
Observer Reporter

A cryogenic natural gas processing plant is a step closer to reality after the Smith Township board of supervisors voted 3-0 at its third conditional use hearing Monday to approve Energy Transfer Company’s plan for operations.

The proposed Revolution cryogenic plant would sit on a 135-acre site off Point Pleasant Road and be part of a $1.5 billion pipeline project to separate natural gas into methane, ethane and liquidified gas by using extreme cold to parse out the gas components. Despite protests from residents and signed petitions to stop the facility, supervisors said ETC met all its legal requirements to move forward.

“They met their obligations with us. They’ve come before us twice before and we had our reservations, but they’ve done all they’ve needed to do for us to let them continue forward,” chairman Thomas Schilinski said.

About 30 or so protesters – most residents of Point Pleasant and Creek roads near the proposed site – held up signs listing as yet incomplete permits from federal, state and county authorities, including air permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection. They said because those documents are incomplete, supervisors should have held up ETC at the conditional use application stage, which binds general expectations of construction, usage and maintenance of a site.

“A lot of the permits that were referred to (Monday) are not within our jurisdiction – DEP, Occupational Safety and Health Administration permits – those things aren’t within our purview,” solicitor Gary Sweat said.

The five specific issues supervisors requested from ETC after hearings Jan. 11 and 25 were engineering and upgrade plans for involved roads; in-depth explanation of the site’s operations; confirmation with local first responders about adequate training; how operations would affect Burgettstown School District; and a better explanation of access routes into and out of the facility.

Complaints were aired about local roads handling increased construction traffic as well as safety issues.

“Where is our safety ingress and egress?” asked David Pankowski, of 571 Creek Road, Bulger.

ETC officials said they submitted documents showing they will bond for liability of roads, and would enter mutual agreements with shared roads used by MarkWest and Range Resources. MarkWest since put a hold on its plans for a second nearby cryogenic plant, according to Sweat.

Township engineer James Harshman confirmed the township received two letters of commitment from ETC for the company to do a “laundry list of work” on road improvements and remediation before, during and after construction.

ETC engineers presented an overview of site operations with 3-D imaging. They also presented a signed Feb. 25 letter from Slovan Fire chief Brandon Kriznik that the department “understands the facility’s shutdown and safety mechanisms. ETC has established protocols to facilitate first-responder access,” the letter stated. ETC attorney Marcia DePaula clarified Slovan and other departments would not be expected to conduct extinguishing or operational shutdown duties, but would rather help evacuate areas in the event of an explosion or fire.

The mayor of Burgettstown, Anna Marie Quader, said she took issue with such a plan.

“These are volunteers in these areas. My borough, Midway, Hanover, Mt. Pleasant – we join in and help each other. We just had an incident in Hanover (a gas line fire) that was started over something the size of a nickel that caught us up for hours last week. One way in and out – what are you talking about?” Quader said, referring to local road access.

The facility would only have one entrance and exit for security reasons and OSHA regulations, said local government coordinator Chris Coop said.

As for the school district, DePaula said ETC engineers looked at studies at similar facilities and distances – mainly based on the Rebel gas plant in Garden City, Texas – and that “the school would be safe from damage if there is an incident.” The school is approximately two miles away.

“It’s a similar facility, similar residential setup there, and from what (engineers) deemed credible, potential events there and here, the school is not an issue,” ETC project manager Wayne Kilgore said.

“Safety is our culture, and it’s the law. It’s our number one priority. We’ve never had an incident at our facilities and we’ve never had to evacuate,” Coop said.

“This is state-of-industry equipment being used in the facility to keep it and our personnel safe. The connections to pipelines have automatic shutoffs, off-site manual cutoffs and remote control as well,” Kilgore said.

After a resident said the facility would “flare” or burn off carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, Lisa Graves-Marcucci, a community organizer with the Environmental Integrity Project in Pittsburgh, said the Revolution facility would also produce hydrogen sulfide, something the company must keep track of in records and maintain on-site.

The next steps for ETC, according to Sweat, are to submit actual site plans, requests for zoning and subdivision waivers, and grading and excavation. The Revolution Pipeline project would create 3,200 interim jobs during construction, according to ETC, and retain 30 permanent jobs in Smith Township.