STEUBENVILLE - The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wants to know which of eight alternatives would be Spectra Energy's preferred site for its new, $500 million compressor station and pipeline, but that doesn't mean the government agency will agree with them.
Spectra must tell FERC by Sept. 20 which site alternative it thinks makes more sense for its Ohio Pipeline Energy Network, which they've tagged "O.P.E.N." FERC, however, is not obligated to follow Spectra's lead.
"FERC makes the decision, not us," said Susan D. Waller, vice president of stakeholder outreach and sustainability at Spectra.
Waller said FERC representatives have been in the area to visit each of the proposed locations. They've also been attending public meetings the company has hosted in St. Clairsville, Bellaire, Bloomingdale and Hanoverton for individuals who could be impacted by the O.P.E.N. project.
Spectra's proposed 70-mile pipeline will extend from Columbiana County, near the Kensington plant, into Carroll, Jefferson, Belmont and Monroe counties.
The compressor station itself also will be in Jefferson County.
"We actually moved the route because that would have been too close to landowners," she said. "(But) I feel like right now, we're honing in on a really good route" that takes things like crops, sewage systems and geographic issues into consideration.
"That's what FERC expects us to do," she added. "We're expected ... to consider the potential (impact) to the public.
Waller and Ian Nickey, Spectra's government relations and communications manager, said the siting alternatives were dictated in large part by the existing infrastructure.
"FERC has stringent guidelines," Waller said. "First, they ask that we look at existing corridors, existing pipelines. The goal is to do the least invasive impact as possible, keeping as close as possible, to existing utilities."
"We can't get too far away because we have to be close to hydraulics (infrastructure)," Nickey added. "A lot of it's the engineering, but we also have to have access roads."
They said the company must submit its recommendations before Sept. 20, when Spectra will update its resource reports. If all goes as planned, the project would be certified late in 2014 and in service by the fourth quarter of 2015.
"Construction, hopefully, will start around March or May, 2015," she said.
If, in fact, it is certified, O.P.E.N. would be an extension of Spectra's Texas Eastern pipeline, which has operated in the Buckeye State since 1947, covering a little more than 1,000 miles of pipeline in 22 Ohio counties and generating $14 million in tax revenue. O.P.E.N. would expand Texas Eastern's system into the Marcellus and Utica shale, linking Eastern Ohio with growing markets in the Midwest, Southeast and Gulf Coast.
Waller said compressor stations are typically the size of a barn and have a lot of safety "redundancies" built into them, such as emergency shutoff valves, sensors and around-the-clock monitoring. A brief video depicting an active compressor station and illustrating the safeguards typically taken to protect people, communities and the environment can be viewed at the Schiappa branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, she said.