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Airing sought for Frazer Marcellus shale natural gas compressor station

| Thursday, March 1, 2012

An environmental advocacy group is asking for more time for the public to comment on a Marcellus shale natural gas compressor station that would be the first of its kind in Allegheny County.

The Group Against Smog and Pollution, known as GASP, is asking the Allegheny County Health Department to hold a public hearing as part of its consideration of an installation permit for the station.

Such stations compress natural gas so it can move through pipelines.

According to coordinates on the permit application, the station would be located at a point between Yutes Run and Log Cabin roads to the north and west of Pittsburgh Mills mall. A Marcellus well is nearby, atop a hill overlooking the mall property.

Superior Appalachian Pipeline of Canonsburg, Washington County, is seeking the permit.

A representative of the company did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

The Health Department has been accepting comments on the project for 30 days, ending March 8. Spokesman Guillermo Cole said the department is considering a request from GASP to extend the comment period and hold a hearing.

A decision will be announced in the next few days, Cole said.

A longer comment period and hearing are not required because the project is considered "a minor source" of pollutants and "not expected to have a significant impact on air quality," Cole said.

Lauren Burge, a staff attorney for GASP, said the group is not trying to stop or block the station's installation. She said the group wants to make sure that its emissions are controlled to the fullest extent allowed by law.

"It's the first of it's kind in the county," Burge said. "We want to make sure they do this one right so it sets a good standard for others that may follow."

GASP is hosting an informational meeting about the project tonight in Pittsburgh.

Burge said the group wants more opportunity for comment because of the public concern around Marcellus shale drilling.

"A lot of people are concerned about it. This snuck up on some people," she said. "It's something kind of new. Giving people more time and a public hearing gives people a chance to voice whatever concerns they have."

The company has yet to submit its land development plan for the station to the township, Frazer Supervisor Lori Ziencik said. Township officials would not be able to comment until they see the plan, she said.

Cole said the department has received a considerable number of comments about the project. He said the department typically doesn't get any for minor source projects.

The project would include five natural gas-fired engines each driving a compressor, three natural gas-heated dehydrators, or reboilers, and two storage tanks.

It would be fueled by natural gas only.

The station would be used in connection with four wells not yet drilled, Cole said.

Burge agreed with Cole's statement that the station would be an improvement over existing, older natural gas compressor stations now operating in the county as part of the distribution system supplying natural gas to homes.

The stations still could contribute to ozone pollution and smog as more are built, Burge said.

"The new equipment is much better than the older engines," Burge said. "That being said, we want to make sure it's controlled as much as possible."

Coming up

Who: Group Against Smog and Pollution

What: Information about Marcellus shale natural gas compression station proposed in Frazer

When: 7 tonight

Where: Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh

Details: E-mail

How to comment

Written comments regarding the proposed compressor station can be sent to the Allegheny County Health Department's Air Quality Program at 301 39th St., Pittsburgh 15201.

Comments may also be e-mailed to the department.

Unless an extension is granted, comments are due by March 8.

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