LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. – Over the last four weeks, Columbia Gas and Penn State have been preparing a cost estimate for an on-campus route for the natural gas pipeline to serve the University Park’s West Campus Steam Plant. On Friday (July 12), Penn State’s Board of Trustees approved a $9.6 million increase in the project’s budget to accommodate the new costs associated with this alternative to the original proposed route through State College borough.
Penn State Board of Trustees approves on-campus gas pipeline route
The University has studied and discussed multiple options for meeting its sustainability goals while addressing the age and capacity of its campus steam plants and complying with Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act emissions regulations that will take effect in January 2016. After considering all variables, the most viable solution to continue to heat the campus is a conversion of the West Campus coal-fired steam plant to burn natural gas. The move will reduce the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent.
The University plans to replace three coal-fired boilers with two, new high-capacity gas-fired boilers. The new boilers will be installed one at a time, with the first needing to be on line by the winter of 2014/15 to heat the University Park campus. This means a new gas line to the West Campus Steam Plant must be operational by Dec. 1, 2014.
The West Campus Steam Plant conversion from coal to gas was approved by Penn State’s Board of Trustees this past November, and authority was granted to award contracts, including a 30-year service agreement with Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania. A complementary project to replace the 75- and 66-year-old turbines in the West Campus Steam Plant was also approved.
In March, Columbia submitted information to State College borough with plans to begin work in April on the original route they identified in consultation with borough officials and PennDOT that would run through State College.
At an April 1 State College Borough Council meeting, residents expressed a number of concerns with routing the line through a residential neighborhood. As a result of those concerns, the borough council passed a resolution that opposed the route of the pipeline and instructed staff to not approve Columbia’s application for a permit.
At Penn State’s request, Columbia in April began a reconsideration of on-campus routes that had previously been reviewed. Columbia confirmed the routes were still not practical, and two new routes were explored. On June 10, Columbia identified a northern on-campus route that appeared to be a viable alternative to the borough route. Between then and now Columbia, Penn State and their service providers have been working to determine the pricing and construction schedule for this route and the cost impact.