Economic development efforts focus on value-added pieces
BY STACI WILSON
Adding value to natural gas before it leavesSusquehannaCountyis a priority of the Economic Development Board and the Progress Authority.
At the annual Economic Development breakfast, held Thursday, Aug. 23, at the Summit Tea Room inNew Milford, value-added economic benefits of the local gas play were highlighted.
Progress Authority Executive Director Anthony Ventello spoke to the large crowd about Leatherstocking Gas Company’s plans to bring local natural gas service to the area.
“Some of the most prolific wells in the state (are inSusquehannaCounty) and there is no access to them,” Ventello said. “We want to
add value to the gas before it leaves this county.”
Leatherstocking is seeking PUC approval for natural gas distribution franchises in the greater Montrose, Hallstead/Great Bend and Susquehanna areas.
In addition to a local gas utility, Ventello also said the Progress Authority is looking into compressed natural gas and energy generation, as other value-added enterprises tied to natural gas.
Leatherstocking CEO Michael German also spoke about his company’s plans in this area.
“We serve local customers in local communities,” he said, “It’s all we do.”
Leatherstocking is a natural gas service
utility company that currently has 15,000 customers but also serves two other utilities.
But, he said, “the first gas through the pipe goes to the local community and customers.”
German also promised that, if Leatherstocking is granted the 13franchises it is seeking inPennsylvania, it will use local contractors and open a local office for customer convenience inSusquehannaCounty.
“We’re waiting on PUC approval to start construction. We want to provide gas where there is no gas today,” German said.
He also spoke about the cost benefit of natural gas to consumers.
At the current natural gas price, he said, “Unless you’re paying 85 cents per gallon for oil to heat your home – you’re paying too much.”
According to German, it would cost $900 per year to heat and average home with natural gas at today’s rates.
“It’s obviously abundant, obviously local and very, very clean,” German said. He said theUnited Stateshad lowered its carbon emissions to 1992 levels due, in part, to using natural gas more efficiently.
German said construction would likely begin in the Montrose area. “We will build out as soon as we can get regulatory approval and customer contracts.”
And access to natural gas service might not just help homeowners, it could also help foster economic development in the region.
InCorning,N.Y., German said that industry and capital investment had been spurred by the available natural gas service. “Industrial customers demand natural gas,” he said.
Leatherstocking will also train first responders on how to handle any gas emergencies.
Ventello said the members of the natural gas production community have shown a strong interest in getting local gas to the community “because then you’re really showing value.”
Cabot Oil & Gas spokesman George Stark said, “Our gas will flow through a Williams tap to residents inSusquehannaCounty.”
Also on hand to speak at the breakfast was Carolyn Newhouse, Deputy Director of DCED.
Newhouse told the group she came into government after years of working as a business owner in the private sector inMcKeanCounty.
Newhouse spoke about DCED programs available to businesses and municipalities.
She also addressed the area’s natural gas resource, and said that, last year,Pennsylvaniamet 100 percent of its natural gas needs due to Marcellus development and became a net exporter of natural gas.
“We’re great at pulling it out of the ground,” Newhouse said. “Now we need to become phenomenal at how we use it.”
Newhouse had to leave the meeting early to get back toHarrisburgfor a meeting.
At her parting, Economic Development Board Chairman John Kameen said, “You can tell Governor Corbett we are going to keep pumping gas inSusquehannaCounty.”
Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) addressed her legislation that gives PUC oversight over Class 2, 3 and 4 gathering lines.
“We want to know pipelines in the ground are done safely,” she said. The legislation also provides for the documentation of gathering line locations, and well site locations.
Economic development recognition awards were also announced at the meeting.
The Forest City News was recognized as it is celebrating its 125th year in business. The newspaper was started in 1887 and serves theForestCityarea. Owner John Kameen accepted the award.
Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation was recognized as ‘Business of the Year’ for its contributions in the county.
Cabot has invested over $500 million inSusquehannaCountyand created over 250 jobs, with plans to hire more people in the future.
Stark accepted the award on behalf of Cabot.
EndlessMountainsHealth Systems Board of Directors Chairman Ray Wilmarth was honored as the 2012 Citizen of the Year, primarily for his work on the EMHS building project.
“I appreciate the honor,” Wilmarth said, “but the EMHS work is really a team effort.”
“Thank you all for this wonderful award. I’m certainly not deserving of it but deeply appreciate it,” he told the group.