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Foes of Forks’ compressor upgrade plan informational meeting

The PennEast Pipeline isn’t the only local natural gas transmission project to generate opposition in the Lehigh Valley.

Plans to enlarge a Forks Township compressor station to support an extension of a Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. pipeline between Chester County and New Jersey also has gained its share of local detractors.

Residents opposed to the proposal have scheduled an informational meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Forks Township Municipal Building with a representative of the Clean Air Council.

Forks Township’s Sheila Gallagher, a neighbor of the compressor station, said it’s important residents understand the effect of the expansion on air quality, noise and local safety.

“The compressor station is one small cog in the wheel of this thing that is going to overwhelm the state,” Gallagher said, referring to the state’s growing natural gas drilling industry.

Columbia Gas Transmission has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval to add roughly 19 miles of new pipeline in Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey that will require a significant upgrade to the company’s compressor station on Klein Road in Forks Township.

The project is needed to meet increased demand by its customers for natural gas, Columbia said.

Part of what’s being called the East Side Expansion project, the new section of pipeline will stretch from Chester County to New Jersey, helping to fuel a planned natural gas-fired power plant. To push along the higher quantities of gas, the company, a division of Houston, Texas-based NiSource, will install larger compressor turbines at its Forks station that are four times more powerful.

Related: PennEast pipeline foes cheered by Delaware River Basin Commission review.

The compressor station is part of a pipeline network that stretches 12,000 miles, transporting 3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day through 10 states, according to the federal commission. The Forks plant is one of two that will be upgraded as part of the project.

The other is located in Milford, Pike County.

Columbia will replace two 2,250-horsepower turbines in Forks with two 10,802-horsepower turbines, which were expected to go online in 2015. The work won’t require the purchase of any additional land, but will create an expanded fence line, according to an environmental assessment prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The impact study says the larger Easton facility will be subject to a variety of state and federal air quality regulations, and that the new equipment will increase emissions of a variety of pollutants, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, while reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds.

Still, the commission found, its emissions would be too low to adversely affect public health.

The study also found that the expanded Easton compressor station would be quieter than the existing equipment.

The Pennsylvania DEP is reviewing the compressor station upgrade plan to make sure it complies with state pollution emission limits and the company’s permit for the facility.

The DEP held a public hearing on the air quality aspect of the plans on Nov. 10. It has extended the public comment period until 4 p.m. on Dec. 8, spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said.

According to the DEP, comments should be submitted to Mark Wejkszner, Air Quality Program Manager, 2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701.