Proposed gas facility in Marple brings community opposition | News

MARPLE – A gas reduction plant belongs to an industrial park or other remote location, not a neighborhood. Members of the Maple Safety Coalition will tell Administrative Law Judge Emily DeFoe and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission when the PUC holds a virtual public filing hearing on Tuesday and Wednesday. PECO Energy is applying to build a gas reliability station on the site of an old gas station next to Freddy ‘Burgers in Sproul and Cedar Grove in Broomall.

The residents of the region refer to the facility as an industrial facility and find that the planned property is in a shopping center in the neighborhood in the middle of a densely populated residential and business district and is not a suitable location for a facility that produces large quantities of high-pressure gas.

“We are very concerned about the safety of this facility. PECO has stated several times that this is the first of its kind they are building, ”said Greg Fat, a local resident and representative of the Marple Safety Coalition. “We’re really concerned about the safety of our neighborhood. Having an industrial gas pipeline like this in the middle of a residential area next to a restaurant and houses is really worrying.”

“These facilities are much better off in discrete locations or in industrial parks,” he said.

Coalition members refer to the facility as untested because it is a different design than other gas reliability stations that PECO has operated in the past. Residents also have concerns about the smells and noise of such a facility.

Doug Oliver, PECO’s vice president of government and foreign affairs, said the company has 30 facilities similar to the proposed Marple site. He said safety is always their top priority. He also noted that the company tried to work with the community to redesign the exterior and landscaping of the property during development.

“This particular equipment that we talk about in Marple Township is very familiar to us as an organization. We have 30 similar infrastructures around our PECO gas service terror. “

He said the equipment is designed to reduce the pressure of natural gas so that it can be used for everyday purposes. He noted that one of the most basic components of a natural gas system and equipment is used in all kinds of places, from urban to rural.

Coalition members said PECO provided them with the locations of two other facilities that are similar and that PECO uses.

“We visited them and found that they are nowhere near as close to the residents or to busy streets and intersections. They were hidden with a lot of soil around them, ”said Julie Baker, also a resident and member of the coalition. “They wouldn’t allow us to compare device types.”

Baker noted that the community and Delaware County Council are not endorsing the project at this location and are providing assistance in litigation against the project.

When asked why PECO couldn’t locate in an industrial park, Oliver said that a number of factors were taken into account when choosing the location.

“We first looked for viable options in 2019. We looked at 10 different locations that were within a half a mile of the gas pipeline on Sproul and Lawrence Streets. They were all eliminated for one reason or another, ”said Oliver.

“We had to have the location close to our infrastructure. we need it of the right size; we needed the right zoning; and finally, that it would be for sale, availability. This particular site met all of the criteria, ”said Oliver. “We believe this location is zoned for utility purposes with one specific exception. In order to receive this particular exemption, we need to demonstrate that the use we propose will add value to the community. “

Oliver said in their zoning application that they demonstrated that value.

“You (PECO) talk about how many more millions it could cost to have a station in the industrial park. That’s everyone’s first question – why don’t you put it in the industrial park next to the transfer station? That seems to be optimal, ”said Baker. “They spend so much money on litigation, and all the extra external affairs work … they could have done the right thing from the start and saved money.”

In June last year, PECO first announced its plans to build the facility, which will lower the gas pressure from the company’s West Conshohocken plant and heat it at certain times of the year to enable distribution via the local power grid .

“It’s industrial and this is a neighborhood. There are two schools and four churches within the blast radius if something like this explodes, ”said Scott Gould, a neighbor who is against the facility. “The danger is that they’ll take high pressure gas and pump it through a series of ovens to warm it up so they can gas it. This is an industrial plant. We have an industrial park nearby … something like that belongs there, somewhere that’s divided into zones. “

The proposed station is part of PECO’s larger Natural Gas Reliability Project in Delaware County which installed 11 miles of new gas pipelines, including 2 miles in Marple.

In November, the Marple Township Zoning Board unanimously denied the utility’s request for a special exception and deviation in the fence height requirement. The company appealed to the Delaware County Court in November and filed a motion for relief with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in February.

PECO tries to get the PUC to determine that two buildings, one the heating system itself and the other a small communication building, are necessary and should be exempted from local zone, subdivision or land development restrictions.

“This will be an unmanned facility and that affects us,” said Fat. “You will have no one here to wait for you or to react immediately. This is worrying because our rescue workers will not have access to the lock.” switch off or do anything in this system / facility. “

The group believes that PECO has not disclosed the nature of the facility and plans.

“They could have come to the commissioners of several townships and say we should sort this out for the good of the community, but they don’t,” Baker said. “Unfortunately, this is not a good neighbor.”

They also ask whether the demand for gas is growing so fast that the project needs to be accelerated.

PECO officials have stated that they will need the facility within 10 years, otherwise capacity may be limited. The company anticipates 2 percent annual growth in Delaware County and 1 percent annual growth in Marple.

“Without this project, we expect the area to be restricted,” said Oliver. “On the coldest days of the year, there would be reliability issues for our existing customers.”

Coalition members expect 100 local residents to attend the hearing to oppose the plan.

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