Columbia Gas drops lawsuit against State College related to Penn State pipeline

jvanderk@centredaily.comOctober 11, 2013 

Columbia Gas has dropped its lawsuit against State College and Manager Tom Fountaine, related to the natural gas pipeline that will serve Penn State.

That’s according to court documents dated Oct. 1 and filed Tuesday.

Columbia filed suit against Fountaine and the borough in May, following the borough’s non-issuance of a permit that would allow the utility to install the pipeline under borough streets.

As a state-regulated utility, Columbia has the right to install new gas lines in municipalities where it already operates, as it does in State College.

However, the Borough Council directed Fountaine not to approve any permits for the project, siding with residents who worried about the safety of a high-pressure line running near their homes.

That permit is no longer an issue. Following the public outrage to the original pipeline route under Bellaire and Prospect avenues and South Burrowes Street, Penn State asked Columbia to re-evaluate other potential routes for the pipeline.

“Because Columbia Gas no longer needs the permit to build the gas pipeline in the borough streets, Columbia withdrew its complaint against the borough,” said Columbia spokesman Russell Bedell. “Several months ago, Columbia and the borough had reached a mutual agreement to a stay of the procedural schedule in the complaint proceeding while Penn State University and Columbia evaluated the alternate route.”

The line now will originate near Porter Road, travel to and along University Drive, cross and travel along Park Avenue, turn south on Shortlidge Road, proceed to Curtin Road, and travel along Burrowes Road and, finally, along an alley to connect at the West Campus steam plant.

Penn State is converting the facility from coal to natural gas to meet new federal air pollution guidelines that take effect at the start of 2016. The pipeline now will travel through campus, at an additional cost of $10 million.

Installation of some sections of the pipeline began last week and will continue this fall.

The state Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public meeting and hearing on the steam plant conversion at the State College Area High School South Building at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30.

Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.

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