Residents learned the potential pros and cons of a natural gas compressor station that could soon be coming to the borough.
Several representatives for UGI Energy Services presented their plan for a compressor station on Fire Cut Road in West Wyoming on Wednesday, and Matt Walker, community outreach coordinator for Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council, gave a presentation on some of the stations' potential negative effects.
UGI Energy Services is planning an approximately 28-mile pipeline to connect UGI Utilities' existing gas distribution system in Plains Township with a pipeline in northwestern Wyoming County that receives gas from Marcellus Shale wells.
Compressor stations compress the natural gas to get it into the pipelines and on to market - in this case, to customers in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.
By using gas from nearby Marcellus Shale wells, it saves significantly on transportation costs and will lower UGI customers' gas bills, UGI spokeswoman Lillian Harris told the residents who filled the borough building's meeting room. She estimated customers would see a 40 percent decrease in their bills over four years.
The location was selected because it would cause minimal disruption to the community, Harris said.
"I can tell you the closest home to the compressor station site is half a mile," she said.
The noise impact from the 4,700-horsepower engines will be negligible, construction will create jobs, and the design and construction standards will be more stringent than government requirements, according to UGI representatives.
Harris anticipates construction will start in the spring of 2013 and the compressor station will be in service by August 2013.
UGI will meet with local leaders during the process. West Wyoming Council President Eileen Cipriani said borough officials have requested in writing that Luzerne County hold a public zoning hearing prior to issuing a building permit.
Harris said the compressor station would meet or exceed federal requirements for emissions.
Walker said compressor stations can discharge methane, nitrous oxide and hazardous air pollutants and volatile organic compounds including formaldehyde and toluene, all of which from the engines and from leaks.
Walker said health effects from the pollutants can range from eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and nausea to liver, kidney and central nervous system damage. Exposure has higher impacts on people within half a mile of the station, he said.
But Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition co-founder Dr. Thomas Jiunta said the pollutants will affect more than a half-mile radius since they will accumulate in the valley due to inversion. Inversion is common in regions with mountains and valleys - warm air above doesn't mix with the cool air below, trapping pollution.
Harris estimated the West Wyoming station would produce 44.3 tons of volatile organic compounds and 16.2 tons of hazardous air pollutants annually.
That's within limits allowed by the federal government, but Exeter Township resident Steve Simko didn't care.
"I'm not one for acceptable levels. If it's not supposed to be there, it's not supposed to be there," he said.
Resident Charlie Umphred, who said he lives right down the road from the proposed compressor station site, suggested UGI poll everyone within a mile to ask if they minded a compressor station.
"If nobody wants it, don't build it," he said.