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St. Lawrence Gas on track to begin pipeline expansion project through Tri-Town area

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MALONE - The construction timeline for the St. Lawrence Gas natural gas pipeline remains on schedule, but the company may be experiencing a delay with the issuance of some of the grant funding for the project.

While Franklin County Manager Thomas Leitz called the issue a delay, St. Lawrence Gas Assistant General Manager James Ward said the company is working through the issue and does not expect it to be much of a problem.

At Thursday’s Franklin County Board of Legislators meeting, Mr. Leitz said the delay is with a $2.5 million grant the Empire State Development Corporation approved for the project. When completed, the project will extend a 48-mile pipeline from the town of Norfolk to the town of Chateaugay.

As a stipulation of the grant, the company must build the project with a certain amount of minority-owned and female-owned businesses, Mr. Leitz said. He reported the numbers as 15 percent each for minority and female involvement and said the numbers were increased before the grant agreement was in place, meaning the new rules have to be followed.

The county manager pointed to the lack of diversity in the north country and said county and company officials may be able to request a waiver if a part of the grant requirement proves not to be feasible.

“The minority standard cannot be met,” he said.

Mr. Leitz said he is “pretty hopeful” a waiver might be forthcoming. He also said the particular grant covers the building of the pipeline from Malone to Chateaugay, so the construction should not be held up by this issue.

St. Lawrence Gas plans to construct the pipeline in two segments, starting from Norfolk to Malone this year and finishing from Malone to Chateaugay next year. The grant will not come into play until 2013.

“It shouldn’t influence this year anyway,” Mr. Leitz said.

Legislator Tim Burpoe (D-Saranac Lake) said the rules regarding minorities and women may work in a metropolitan area but are hard to follow in a rural area such as Franklin County. Other legislators agreed.

“There’s just nothing out there,” Legislator Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) said. “There’s nobody out there you can go to. ... It comes down to common sense.”

Later on Thursday, Mr. Ward said the company is working through the process of meeting the requirements for the grant, as well as preparing to begin construction.

“I don’t think it’ll be a big delay,” he said. “We don’t see a problem with it.”

Mr. Ward said construction is still on track to begin in July. The state Public Service Commission is meeting for its regular session on July 12, and Mr. Ward said the PSC will then consider the company’s amended filing to place a temporary surcharge on customer’s bills to help offset the construction costs.

Mr. Ward said he anticipates that filing being approved and work getting under way on the pipeline not too long after the PSC meeting.

“Things look very good,” he said. “Construction will begin soon after that commission session and approval of the amended filing. We will start work very quickly.”

The plan is to reach Malone by this fall, he said, and then pick up the construction next year and complete the route to Chateaugay.

“We’re still on track,” Mr. Ward said. “We’re just waiting to get to Public Service Commission’s approval. I think things look good very good at this time.”

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