Rapho residents share pipeline concerns

About 20 Rapho residents and concerned citizens from other communities aired concerns Thursday about Williams Partners' proposed Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline.

The revised route for the pipeline now runs through the township, and Williams representatives met with township officials during a regularly scheduled workshop session Tuesday.

During that meeting, discussion was between pipeline representatives and township officials. Williams Partners has scheduled another meeting between affected Rapho landowners on Tuesday July 29, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Acorn Farms Reception & Conference Center, 3141 Mount Joy-Manheim Road, Mount Joy.

Related: Complete pipeline coverage

Lynne Palazzo, a Rapho resident who attended the July 15 meeting, took the supervisors to task for not allowing public participation at that meeting.

"The fact that there would be no public participation should have been made clear before the start of the meeting,” Palazzo said. “It also appeared that we (the residents) were standing by ourselves.

“We appreciate the research that you have done but are concerned with the apparent disengagement of two (of the three) supervisors,” she added. “Have you considered the impact of this proposed project?”

Supervisor Jere Swarr said he has done a lot of research on natural gas pipelines and Williams Partners since learning about three weeks ago that the rerouting would take the pipeline through the township.

Swarr also defended Supervisors Lowell Fry and Duane Martin.

"I have a business that allows me to have some down time to do intensive research, while the other two supervisors don't have that," Swarr said. "There is a pipeline being laid right now in Lebanon County, and since my business takes me up that way, I've watched it being put in and have spoken with the construction crew."

Martin said Williams’ pipeline proposal — which includes a 35-mile route through Lancaster County — is “early in the process. I don't have an opinion on the pipeline, but I want to learn about it,” he said. “When they have a public meeting, I'll go to it. I want to get the information direct from Williams; they're the ones who are building this pipeline."

Fry explained that the township's workshop sessions are often a dialogue between the board and people who come to discuss specific issues. That includes developers discussing potential or current projects, he said, and no decisions are made at the sessions.

Fry said natural gas is a product that needs to get from Point A to Point B, and a pipeline is the most efficient way to do so.

Nelson Ginder, who has a pipeline on his farm that was installed in 1964, asked the supervisors to look out for township residents. When asked by Swarr to provide information about his experience with that pipeline, Ginder did not do so.

Steve Miller said he’s concerned about how the pipeline might limit future use of his property.

"When they come to my property and dig it up, do they have to put it back in shape?” Miller asked. “I have 4,000 feet of drainage tile on my farm, which is part of the proposed route. Placing that drainage tile didn't happen overnight. Also since you can’t build over the pipeline, that could affect any future plans for buildings such as chicken houses."

Fry advised Miller to be sure to discuss his concern with Williams.

"They did say that they would work with property owners on areas of concern," Fry said.

Swarr added that Williams representatives indicated that the company restores land that is excavated, and works with property owners for three years after the pipeline is installed.

Martic Township resident Tim Spiese cautioned residents about the gas industry. He predicted that due to growth projects in the Marcellus shale region in the northern part of the state, this will not be the last pipeline to bisect the county to transport the gas.

Spiese said the pipeline will not benefit local residents, and he advised others to carefully review any contract they may sign with the pipeline company.