At the request of East Nantmeal, North Coventry, South Coventry, Union, Warwick, and West Vincent Townships, Natural Land Trust, French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust and Green Valleys Association have compiled a summary of the important natural, recreational, and historical resources in the Hopewell Big Woods. The report also provides information about the potential impacts of the proposed Commonwealth Pipeline or any other future utility rights-of-way that would pass through the landscape.
So where are we on the Commonwealth gas pipeline that first came to light last fall as a threat to our community? We have been hearing reports since December that the project was “temporarily deferred,” but Commonwealth’s website indicated that the project was still a go. That has changed. The website now reports that “The sponsors of Commonwealth Pipeline have suspended development of the project. We will be updating the website periodically to provide current information regarding the project’s status.” This is very good news, but, while now official, a “suspension” is obviously not the end.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recently awarded the Village of East Nantmeal and surrounding farms – an area of about 1000 acres – a Determination of Eligibility for listing on the National Historic Register. This means that we are just one step away from almost 10% of our Township being included on the National Historic Register! And this also means that we may have another good reason to prevent gas pipelines from invading our precious open space and backyards.
The research needed to complete the final application will cost about $7000, money which the East Nantmeal History Society will have to raise. Because Historic Registry status could also help protect our land, the East Nantmeal Land Trust is assisting with fundraising.
Hopefully, everyone who lives here will recognize what this all means to our Township and to themselves, and support it any way they can. Every dollar counts, so every gift, no matter how small will make a difference!
Please use the enclosed envelope to send your tax-deductible donation to:
East Nantmeal Land Trust
P.O. Box 161
Glenmoore, PA 19343
ENLT is again sponsoring our Annual Yard Sale and all proceeds will help to pay for the Historic Village Registry application. If you have items to donate for sale, or can volunteer your time, please call or email Alison Mallamo [(610) 458-9162; firstname.lastname@example.org].
In a letter to Lancaster Farming, Christy Ann Strange documents the struggle she has had after the construction of gas pipeline across her farm. Her issues range from 6-inch landscaping nails causing injury to livestock, stripping of soil, damage to standing trees and littering a field with rock. East Nantmeal residents could learn from this to be very careful about any land lease agreements with pipeline agents. In particular you will need to incorporate protections for your property during construction and specific remediation of the area post construction.
Citing low natural gas prices and a slow economy, backers of the Commonwealth pipeline suspended the project. But that does not mean this pipeline, or a variant of it, will not eventually be developed. John J. Sherman, chief executive of Inergy Midstream L.P., told investors, “We still believe that the project is needed, it’s a good project, and it’s just a matter of time before it develops,” Inergy, based in Kansas City, Mo., would have built and operated the pipeline.
News items from The Inquirer, announcing the suspension, and the Daily Local News, covering concerns of local politicians, reinforce the notion that we have not seen the end of Commonwealth’s plan for East Nantmeal.
Property owners approached by land agents for pipeline companies, and faced with the threat of eminent domain, often feel it best to accept the first offer. But in a workshop an attorney with experience in pipeline negotiations advised landowners not to roll over. He suggested that property owners have many rights and plenty of room to get a better price. Considering that the company cannot go lower than the first offer if it comes to an eminent domain hearing, you can take the opening offer as their lowest, not their best.
In northeastern Pennsylvania for the recent MARC1 pipeline, landowners were offered $8 per linear foot. For a 50ft right-of-way that comes to less than $7,000 per acre, suggesting a considerable gap to the average cost to fully purchase the ground. The property owner will still own the land, as the pipeline company is only purchasing an easement to cross the land. However, constraints detailed in the easement may prevent the owner from full enjoyment of use of the property. One may still enjoy mowing and maintaining the eased area and one definitely will still pay taxes on the ground. However there may be restrictions on placing structures or plantings in the eased areas. More important to potential future use, if the pipeline easement separates a significant area of the property, and no drive may be constructed across the pipeline, the owner, depending on local ordinances, may have lost the ability to subdivide and sell a portion of their property. Landowners need to understand what uses of their property may no longer be available to them, and need to be properly compensated for that loss.
The various conservancy groups in the area point out that Pennsylvania’s regulations for remediating an area after constructing a pipeline do not meet best management practices in areas such as soil erosion and forest habitat protection. Property owners can also negotiate conditions to be met during construction and how the land will be restored post-construction that go beyond the state’s requirements. One can specify the types of vegetation to be replanted and the type of long term maintenance by the company to prevent further degradation of the land. Owners viewing themselves as stewards of the land often include these types of conditions. Some have found that the pipeline companies gladly accept these conditions particularly from conservancies, viewing the implementation of the best practices as a public relations opportunity.
After many unofficial suggestions of deferral, the Commonwealth Pipeline website has been update and states the sponsors of the project have suspended its development. Speculation is that the current price for domestic natural gas is too low to support the cost of the 120 mile pipeline.
The Chester County commissioners have planned a public meeting for April 10 to develop a Pipeline Notification Protocol that will create a communications strategy for dealing with pipeline proposals. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the annex meeting room of the Henrietta Hankin Library, 215 Windgate Drive, Chester Springs.
In Ohio, near the Blackhand Gorge Nature Preserve, Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners cut down trees to make way for the installation of an underground pipeline. The company took down 100 trees owned by a private resident, 300 feet from the state-owned preserve. According to a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, “it appears that a small tract of land owned by the state was impacted without permission”. The county planning commission sent Enterprise a letter indicating that they had violated floodplain regulations. See the Columbus Dispatch article from 02/22/2013.