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Gas pipeline gets go-ahead from the PSC

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A 48-mile natural gas pipeline between Norwood and Chateaugay is another step closer to becoming a reality. According to St. Lawrence Gas, the state Public Service Commission approved the company’s petition to amend its certificate of public convenience and necessity, a state-mandated document to get the project going.

“Construction is anticipated to start in mid-August 2012,” reads a St. Lawrence Gas news release. St. Lawrence Gas Assistant General Manager James Ward said in March that the work may happen in two phases.

The release states that part of the discussion that led to the order was the anticipation of reduced energy bills to the pipeline’s customers. Ward said in March that natural gas can save half compared to propane and 40 percent compared to fuel oil.

The total cost of the project is $23.5 million.

St. Lawrence Gas is responsible for $17.3 million of the project costs, while Franklin County will contribute $1.7 million. The county has already allocated $300,000 and expects to take out a short-term loan to cover the remainder.

A $2.5 million Upstate Regional Blueprint grant from the Empire State Development Corporation and $2 million in funding from the state Dormitory Authority make up the rest of the money to build the pipeline.

The project has faced numerous hurdles getting under way.

In February, Ward told the county Board of Legislators the project is now delayed because construction costs are now estimated to be double the previous anticipated expenditure, due to the high demand for qualified contractors. Shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania has drawn contractors down there for high dollar deals.

Ward also said in March that the anticipated costs for materials have gone up because of higher steel prices, but he said the impact there is only minimal, especially because the company has already purchased the necessary piping.

Last month, Franklin County Manager Tom Leitz said the Empire Development grant would be delayed. As a stipulation of the grant, the company must build the project with a certain amount of minority-owned and female-owned businesses, 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.

When completed, the pipeline will serve the communities of Moira, North Bangor, Brushton, Malone, Burke, Chateaugay, Brasher, and North Lawrence.

agardner@mtelegram.com

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