One of the most important challenges facing the region - and the nation as a whole - is increasing access to natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
In that region, UGI Penn Natural Gas says it's hamstrung by old pipes and infrastructure, making the expansion of access to natural gas too costly.
Limitations to getting more natural gas to market is impacting exploration and delaying the region's critical need and leadership to becoming more energy independent.
But UGI and the borough of South Williamsport in Lycoming County have come up with a pilot program whereby the borough will allow its crews to dig trenches for a main gas line to be installed by UGI.
Plus, the utility says certain property owners there may be eligible for "allowances" that would decrease the cost of connecting to the gas line.
They say the "allowances" would be earned by the property owners through the purchase of natural gas appliances.
Said South Williamsport Councilman Benjamin Landon, "The homeowners can connect much less expensively. It is a benefit to the residents of the borough and a relatively low cost to the borough because we would use our own equipment."
Fellow Councilman Henry Frey Jr. said adding natural gas service to new areas would enhance property values while using an environmentally-friendly fuel.
"In my mind, it's a no-brainer," he said.
Well, it's not just a "no-brainer," it is a great idea.
Political leaders, utilities and private industry must do all that is feasible and reasonable to expand access to natural gas in Central Pennsylvania with the advent of the Marcellus Shale gas.
With this new source of precious energy, this region can wean itself from oil from the Middle East.
We urge municipalities and counties to examine what South Williamsport is doing to see if it might work in their communities.
We know UGI has some very expensive hurdles in its way to increasing pipe diameter to enhance gas flow to neighborhoods and communities. Demand is there.
In South Williamsport, UGI will conduct surveys of interested property owners.
Perhaps, in Clinton and other counties, the same type of surveys should be conducted as a first step toward determining feasibility.
Where else might this utility-municipality partnership work for the benefit of consumers and our economy?
- The (Lock Haven) Express