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Williams Energy part of new economy of Fayette County

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Bill Shirley | Daily Courier
Congressman Bill Shuster (left) talks with Jason Gray of Smithfield, who is the operations supervisor of compressors at Williams Energy in Connellsville. Shuster was in Connellsville Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 and toured the local business.
Bill Shirley | Daily Courier
Congressman Bill Shuster, right, talks with Daniel Haefelin, manager of operations, during a tour through Williams Energy in Connellsville, on Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

The building sits on Enterprise Drive in Connellsville Township. While it may not look like it from the outside, the structure could mark the beginning of a new economy for Fayette County and Southwestern Pennsylvania.

It is the local headquarters for Williams Energy, a company that operates and services compressor stations that process natural gas for distribution over pipelines built and operated by Williams.

According to Daniel Haefelin, manager of operations for the company, 75 people are employed at the building, most of them local.

“These are well-paying jobs,” said Haefelin, who is a native of the German-speaking region of Switzerland and who lives in Washington Township, Fayette County. “These people are also all well educated.”

On Tuesday, Congressman Bill Shuster, who represents the 9th Congressional District, which includes Connellsville, was given a tour of the building before heading out to tour one of the company's nearby compressor stations in the region. During the tour of the building, Shuster was briefed on the regulatory problems faced by Williams.

Williams received a request from Shuster's office to tour the new Connellsville operating center since he was unable to attend the ribbon cutting several months ago.

Haefelin told Shuster that delays caused by regulatory bodies could make the Marcellus shale natural gas unprofitable because the gas from this area is “dry” and does not contain byproducts like propane that can be processed from “wet gas.” Delays in the regulatory process could prevent the expansion of the Marcellus shale gas search in the region.

As Haefelin and Shuster toured the facility, they met Williams' employees from various departments. These included Melissa Sakmar, safety and health specialist 2; Clete Long, supervisor of operations; and Jason Gray, operations supervisor of compressors.

Sakmar is from the Pittsburgh area; Long has worked for Williams for nearly 17 years, much of it in western states, such as Montana and Colorado; Gray grew up in the Smithfield area.

Williams has been operating in Pennsylvania for more than 50 years and in 2009 began dramatically expanding its presence with natural gas gathering, processing and transportation operations in the Marcellus shale, according to information provided by the company. In September 2013, Williams relocated its local Connellsville operations to Enterprise Lane in the Connellsville Industrial Enterprises Industrial Park.

Williams is a Fortune 600 company and is one of the leading energy infrastructure firms in North America. The company has more than 26,000 miles of pipelines in North America and is headquartered in Tulsa, Okla.

Karl Polacek is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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