WILKES-BARRE ‚?? UGI Energy Services cannot go forward with its plan to build a natural gas compressor station in West Wyoming, the Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board declared Tuesday evening.
In a decision that brought a roar of applause from the close to 100 opponents of the controversial project assembled at the Luzerne County Courthouse to hear it, the board voted unanimously to deny the company‚??s application for a special exception to build the station and a variance for an associated 100-foot communications tower.
UGI Energy Services will have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas.
The pipeline company hoped to build the station in a 14-acre wooded area off Fire Cut Road owned by Joseph Kalinosky, the nearest resident to the site. It was planned as part of UGI‚??s $150 million, 27.5-mile Auburn Pipeline extension project, which will link the Tennessee interstate pipeline in Susquehanna County to the Transco interstate pipeline in Luzerne County.
The company also planned to join the Auburn Pipeline with the gas distribution network of sister company UGI Utilities through a smaller line extending from the compressor station to a measurement facility on Saylor Avenue in Wilkes-Barre.
The company‚??s solicitor, attorney Joseph L. Persico of Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald, said UGI Energy Services was ‚??obviously‚?Ľ disappointed‚?Ě with the board‚??s decision, but said the decision of whether to appeal the ruling would be made by UGI after reviewing the important facts of that ruling.
Reached by email after the meeting, UGI Energy Services spokeswoman Lillian Harris said the company ‚??will be considering an appeal of the decision.‚?Ě
‚??UGIES continues to maintain that this project is beneficial to the Wyoming Valley and it will be pursuing the project to fruition,‚?Ě Harris said.
Harris and Persico said UGI considered a number of possible station locations and selected the West Wyoming site because its proximity to the both the Transco pipeline and the Saylor Avenue facility would provide for an efficient flow of gas.
‚??As the testimony explained at the last hearing, that not only was a remote area, but an efficient area as well,‚?Ě Persico said.
The many residents of West Wyoming and surrounding communities opposed to the project, however, took issue with UGI‚??s characterization of the site as remote.
‚??I think it‚??s more just a nice quiet neighborhood; it‚??s not a remote area,‚?Ě said Janice Metzo, a Fire Cut Road resident whose property borders Kalinosky‚??s. ‚??An industrial park would be more appropriate ‚?? somewhere where there‚??s not so many people.‚?Ě
‚??This is important for the future of my grandchildren,‚?Ě said Marion Pacovski, another Fire Cut Road resident who lives just over the West Wyoming border in Kingston Township. ‚??Hopefully, they‚??re going to be someday living where I‚??m living and we don‚??t want this industrial activity in our area. It belongs in an industrial area, not an agricultural area.‚?Ě
During an Aug. 7 public hearing that lasted more than five hours and was attended by well over 100 opponents of the project, area residents also expressed concerns about the volume of emissions the station would produce, its potential impact on public health, its effect on property values, emergency access routes and storm-water runoff.
Nancy Dolan of Exeter, a member of Luzerne County Citizens for Clean Air, challenged the location of the facility in an agricultural district on zoning grounds at that meeting.
‚??My hope is that UGI as a responsible corporation considers the message the people have sent and looks for a reasonable alternative for the placement of a polluting facility like this,‚?Ě Dolan said after Tuesday‚??s meeting.
The West Wyoming Borough Council and state Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Kingston, also publicly opposed the project.
‚??The residents of West Wyoming were not in favor of this, so we‚??re pleased with the decision,‚?Ě West Wyoming Council President Eileen Cipriani said.
At least one area resident attending Tuesday‚??s meeting, though, said he supported UGI‚??s plan and was disappointed with the board‚??s decision. Wayne Weaver of Northmoreland Township, Wyoming County, said he has signed a gas lease but thinks the delays caused to projects like the pipeline lessen the likelihood that a well will be drilled on his property. He added that Kalinosky should have the right to use his property as he sees fit.
‚??He owned that property; he paid taxes on it, and people who had nothing to do with it shouldn‚??t be able to tell him what to do with it,‚?Ě Weaver said.
UGI‚??s compressor station would also require approval from Luzerne County Planning Commission, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Luzerne Conservation District, but UGI cannot begin building the compressor station without zoning approval. Natural gas pipelines do not require zoning approval.