MANSFIELD - Several dignitaries and UGI Central Penn Gas Inc. officials were on hand Friday to dedicate the company's first ever direct "interconnect" to Marcellus Shale gas wells, enabling the deliver of local natural gas to UGI customers directly from the wells.
The dedication included a ribbon cutting at a compression station and well site near here, followed by a celebratory holiday meal at the Mansfield fire hall, cooked with natural gas by Cast and Crew Restaurant.
Speaking at the event were state representative Matt Baker, R-Wellsboro, Tioga County commissioner Mark Hamilton and Public Utility Commission vice chairman John Coleman Jr.
CHERYL R. CLARKE/Sun-Gazette
Cutting a ribbon to dedicate Marcellus Shale natural gas compressor station on the John Rieppel property off Orebed Road near Mansfield that will deliver natural gas directly to local UGI customers are (from left), Mike Glazer, administrative aide to Congressman Glenn Thompson, R-Howard; Public Utility Commission vice chairman John Coleman Jr.; state representative Matt Baker, R-Wellsboro; Vicki Ebner, UGI Utilities senior vice president for customer and government relations; and Tioga County commissioner Mark Hamilton.
Vicki Ebner, UGI senior vice president for customer and government relations, introduced the three men at the Shell Appalachia and Ultra Petroleum well site located on the John Rieppel property just west of Mansfield off the Orebed Road.
"As of this moment, natural gas is flowing from the Marcellus Shale beneath us and moving directly into these compressor stations where it is dried and compressed to flow into UGI distribution systems. For the first time in history, Pennsylvania natural gas is flowing directly into our distribution system and to our customers," Ebner said.
The new local gas is affecting 15,000 UGI customers in the northern tier counties of Bradford, Tioga and Potter, Ebner said, which should provide lower prices in the days to come.
"UGI customers are already paying 30 percent less than they were paying just three years ago," she said. The positive impacts on consumer costs has led to a record number of conversions to natural gas, "and hopefully we will see more of that in years to come," she added.
Coleman noted that part of the Public Utility Commission's purpose is to "look for utilities to secure the lowest cost procurement, and that is what they (UGI) are doing."
"Yesterday the commission formally approved expansion of UGI's service area to 15 additional counties in Pennsylvania," he said.
But safety and oversight also are important, Coleman added, noting that Rep. Baker has "championed" the efforts to get the commission the legislative authority it needs to oversee the pipelines, which are a crucial part in moving the gas around the state and the nation.
Baker noted that "the pipeline safety bill has been and is my highest priority, and we finally got the job done. It is long overdue and will add tremendous implications across Pennsylvania," he added.
Just this week, the bill was passed by both the state house and senate, and is now on the governor's desk, and "he hopefully will sign it very soon," Baker said.
Pennsylvania was one of only two states in the nation that did not oversee pipelines, the other one being Alaska, Baker said.
"It is a very historical moment for all Pennsylvanians, this may be the first case where we do not have gas going through a transmission line," he said of the event. "This is the beginning of energy independence in Pennsylvania and in America. This is what people want, and they want to see reduced costs and job creation," he said.
Hamilton also called the occasion a "milestone."
"I really think this will be a benefit to every one of our local citizens. Hopefully this will be the first of many events that will lead us into energy independence in the United States, relying on ourselves and not someone across the ocean regulating our prices depending on whether they like us or not," he added.