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Interstate gas pipeline concerns residents

| Sunday, April 22, 2012, 7:24 p.m.

Cynthia Kumor, a Menallen Township resident, who recently moved back to Fayette County after 30 years, says she is very concerned about how an interstate natural gas pipeline stretching through Fayette County will affect her home and land.

As the project looms, Kumor said she went to the Fayette County Recorder of Deeds office to research her deed that she plans to take to an attorney for review.

Kumor lives on Stoney Point Road near a new housing development. She said homes in her neighborhood as well as Dunlap Creek Park will be affected, but the residents don't know yet the exact impact. She also has been in contact with officials from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which must approve the project.

"The entire project is so misleading," Kumor said. "Residents are not educated about the situation. They need to hire attorneys to protect their rights."

Kumor was one of approximately 40 residents who attended a meeting on Saturday afternoon at the Fayette Chamber of Commerce in Uniontown.

A Pittsburgh attorney advised Fayette County residents to hire experienced attorneys to negotiate easements with the company planning to build the natural gas pipeline.

Williams Bresnahan, an attorney with Hollinshead, Mendelson, Bresnahan, Nixon & Ball of Pittsburgh, said the best way for property owners to protect their rights and receive adequate compensation, is to hire attorneys who are experts in lease agreements and eminent domain.

"If you don't hire experienced attorneys, you will get run over like a bulldozer," Bresnahan said.

Several speakers addressed issues related to construction of the proposed "Natrium Line," a 252-mile interstate pipeline through eight counties, including Fayette, and the "Butler Lateral," which would run from Butler County and eventually into Fayette County. The project also includes the "Majorsville Lateral," in Greene County and West Virginia.

The Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., or Transco, an affiliate of Williams, a Tulsa, Okla., company that operates pipelines and processing plants across the country, is in the preliminary stages of the process to get construction approval from FERC. The project, which is named the Transco Atlantic Access Pipeline Project, will deliver Marcellus shale gas to the market.

Transco is expected to file its formal application with FERC this fall, according to Steven A. Walton, a Pittsburgh attorney who lives in Menallen Township and legislative committee chairman for the Fayette County Marcellus Shale Task Force.

Walton said Transco will ask for a ruling from FERC by fall 2013 and plans to put the line in service by late 2014.

"This is coming up quickly, and property owners have to be prepared," Walton said.

In Fayette County, Walton said the Natrium would run through Luzerne Township, Menallen Township, North Union Township, Dunbar Borough and Springfield Township before it enters Somerset County, Walton said.

Walton said the gas line will then connect with a 1,700-mile pipeline extending from New York to Texas.

Transco has already begun easement discussions with some property owners, Walton said. Easements will be 100-feet wide and property owners would not be allowed to build anything or have septic tanks in that area. Final easements will be 50-feet wide.

Walton said some homes could be taken through eminent domain. He recommended that property owners hire attorneys to help them negotiate fair prices for their properties.

Walton also advised property owners to become parties in Transco's case through the FERC web site.

"Unlike property owners who lease land for gas wells, pipeline easement land owners will not receive royalty payments, and compensations for their land will be small because the easements cover small amounts of land," he said.

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