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Columbia Gas Threatens Legal Action in Pipeline Saga

In a letter sent to borough manager Tom Fountaine last week, Columbia Gas threatened legal action if the Borough Council doesn’t reconsider their decision to deny the company a permit to construct a high pressure pipeline through parts of State College to help convert Penn State’s West Campus Steam Plant into natural gas.

For those who haven’t been following the pipeline saga, here’s a very brief summary: Penn State needs to convert the steam plant to natural gas. In order to do that, they must run a high press pipeline from the Eastside of campus to the Westside, using contractor Columbia Gas. The initial route took the pipeline through some residential areas in State College because the ground under campus was too complex to maneuver. State College residents spoke out against the plan at Borough Council meetings because of safety concerns and the borough ultimately decided to deny the permit to build the pipeline. Penn State has since asked Columbia Gas to reevaluate the route, however, state law says that the local government can’t deny the building of energy projects like this one. Despite questionable legal standing, the borough has continued to fight the project.

As you can imagine, Columbia Gas is pretty grumpy about the permit denial and the delay in the project, which was set to begin last month.

In the strongly-worded letter received by the borough on May 1, Columbia Gas basically told the borough to approve the permit or face legal action.

“Columbia believes it would be a waste of resources (its own and the Borough’s) to request review of the denial of the Application and then, assuming reconsideration does not change the initial result, appeal the denial to the Court of Common Pleas,” the letter reads.

The letter proceeds to knock the borough’s three reasons for denying the permit. Columbia says the borough’s denial is “void for vagueness” and “violates the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

“The Borough remains committed to the position it has taken to not approve the right-of-way permit for the installation of a natural gas pipeline,” the borough said in a statement. “Given the potential threat of future litigation, the Council and staff will provide no further comment on this matter.”

If Penn State and Columbia Gas can’t find a realistic route to build this thing through campus, it could be an interesting summer for Borough Council as it rumbles with the gas company (and the state).

You can read the full letter below.

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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