Leatherstocking breaks ground
By David Falchek
“The irony has ended,” one speaker put it.
The rich natural gas deposits under Susquehanna County will finally become available to some institutions, residences and businesses by the fall as Leatherstocking Gas Co., begins installing its natural gas distribution system.
State, community and local leaders gathered at Montrose Junior-Senior High School for a ceremonial groundbreaking of the fist phase of the project.
“If all this gas sits beneath our feet, why can’t everyone benefit?” asked Michael German, CEO of Leatherstocking. “We figure it will take ten years to pipe the whole area so that we can reach everyone within a reasonable distance of a main road or a borough.”
The first line will run between two anchor customers: the school and the site of the new Endless Mountains Health System hospital.
Later, it will connect to the new Trehab residential facility. Homes and business along that line will be able to hook in.
Leatherstocking will add about four miles of line every year as it reaches out to more customers. While other utilities use Pennsylvania gas, Leatherstocking will be the first to offer 100 percent local gas.
Supplies will be provided by Cabot Oil & Gas, the dominant natural gas exploration and development company in the region. Williams will provide the tie-in for Leatherstocking.
Two members of the state Public Utility Commission, Wayne Gardner and Pam Witmer, attended the groundbreaking. Witmer underscored the savings customers will reap as a result of local shale gas.
The cost of gas to Pennsylvania users has declined an average of 54 percent between 2008 to 2012, she said, and Leatherstocking’s cost, with nominal transportation charges, will likely be the cheapest in the state.
Montrose Area School District superintendent Michael Ognosky said while converting the school’s boiler from oil to natural gas has a cost, the projects are that the school will save $60,000 annually.
Beyond savings, there are other benefits for Rex Catlin, chief executive of Endless Mountains Health System.
“Even without savings involved, natural gas is a local resource that contributes to the economy,” he said.
Hopefully, gas will contribute even more to the economy, thanks to having the utility, said county commissioner MaryAnn Warren.
“When we get a phone call from a prospective business, the first thing they ask is ‘do you have natural gas?’” she said.
Leatherstocking is a joint venture between Corning Natural Gas Corp. and Mirabito Energy Products.