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Proposed Pipeline Would Ship Marcellus Gas Out of State

A Texas-based company is moving forward with plans to build a pipeline to transmit natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania to distributors along the eastern seaboard.

The Williams Company of Houston has filed a pre-application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to review its preliminary plans to construct the 258-mile pipeline from West Virginia through southern Pennsylvania, including Somerset and Bedford Counties.

"A huge supply [of natural gas] is there that major markets along the east coast would like access to. Unfortunately they can't get access to it," said Chris Stockton, a spokesman for the Williams Company. He said that they are in the "very, early, early, preliminary stages" of developing a proposal to build a pipeline which would ultimately hook up in York County with its Transco line that delivers natural gas from the Gulf Coast to New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and the Carolinas.

Stockton said that over the next 8 to 12 months they will be doing field work "really trying to identify a route that is constructible, that balances the environmental considerations, landowners' considerations with the most effective way to connect and get that gas to market."

He said that they've already started preliminary talks with landowners, municipalities, and environmental groups, and there will be public meetings beginning in the spring. "We'll say, 'Here's a line on a piece of paper,'" Stockton said. "'Here's what we've identified from all the information we've been able to gather. What are we not seeing?' We want to get everything on the table early, so that when we finally file our application, which we are looking to do in late 2012, there are no surprises."

He admits that it can be a major inconvenience to communities and landowners "because when we're doing construction, it's a huge undertaking. You're putting significant infrastructure into the ground," Stockton said. "There are going to be communities that say, 'We don't need this. We don't want it.' That's their right."

According to Stockton, about 75-80 percent of the transmission line would be "co-located," or follow existing utility corridors, roads, and railroad tracks. The pipeline would run near gas production sites. "There would be multiple points where we interconnect with existing producers who would be feeding into that line, and that would connect with our existing pipeline in York County," Stockton said. "From there it could go anywhere" along the east coast.

The company is also in talks with potential customers and natural gas utilities to see if the more than $1 billion project is feasible. "We believe there is sufficient market," Stockton said.

Stockton said that if FERC approves their application, the plan is to begin delivering gas in late 2014.