*Update 1* A Few in Dallas Close Their Ears to the Experts
Last week, a public hearing was held in Dallas Township to continue public consideration of plans by Chief Oil and Gas to install a metering station near the Dallas School District. While projects like this are usually approved quickly due to their simple nature, this project has been under consideration since January and shows no signs of coming to a resolution in the immediate future. The benefit of a drawn out public process such as this is that much can be learned. Good news for us, bad for the anti-development crusaders in the region. In their strategy to draw this project out inevitably, they created an environment where every one of their concerns was able to be debunked by highly qualified experts. Read on…
The proposed project seeks to place a metering station in the township because of the existing Transco line in place near the property. The project which will be located near the school campus (picture below).
Typically when a company wishes to put in a metering station, especially with an existing transmission line already present, it is as simple as asking for a permit. In the case of the Township, though, it has been a process of sifting through local zoning laws and a full hearing to determine if permission for a special exception will be granted. You can read Chief’s brief here.
When GDAC Blows Smoke Bring in the Experts
As part of the hearing, Chief presented individuals to provide expert testimony on the project and its potential impacts . Experts must be accepted by all parties before being recognized as such giving credibility to their statements as part of the written record.
Expert #1: Ali Reza, P.E., CFI
Ali Reza was the first to provide expert testimony. He is the Corporate Vice President, Principal Engineer and Office Director for Exponent Engineering and Scientific Consulting, an international engineering firm that offers in-depth scientific research, analysis and rapid response evaluations in over 90 disciplines. Raza has been with the company since 1988. Raza is also an engineering graduate of both Princeton and Stanford.
During his testimony Raza stated he has has investigated several hundred cases involving pipelines and performed between 500 and 1,000 investigations on explosions. Among these are many high profile cases including the investigations of the September 11th attacks and the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. His clients have included the Department of Defense, the federal government in various capacities, several state governments including Pennsylvania, and the Chemical State Board to name a few.
Due to technical problems, Ali Reza was not able to share the visual presentation he prepared with attendees, so we have made it available for you here. As part of his testimony, Reza was essentially asked to provide clarification on three issues:
1. Is natural gas, which is transported in a pipeline, a hazardous substance?
2. What is the method or likelihood you can prevent a failure in a pipeline or metering station which is carrying or transporting natural gas?
3. If a failure occurs such that gas leaks outside the pipeline or metering station, what is the consequence of that failure?
According to Reza (and the Environmental Protection Agency) natural gas is not considered a hazardous substance. Further, the risk of project failure is minimal and able to be prevented as Chief Gathering LLC will implement a comprehensive pipeline integrity management program that will significantly reduce any uncertainties with this project. Reza discusses all of this here.
Reza was also asked to provide an understanding of what could occur as a result of failure of the pipeline. Reza offered that pipeline incidents are very infrequent. The following chart exemplifies this. Keep in mind that the proposed Dallas pipeline will much smaller, decreasing the rate of potential incident even further.
Reza also testified that even if a failure occurred ignition can only happen when the concentration of gas is between 4.3-15%. Meaning that most failures or leaks will not result in a fire or explosion in the first place. Reza’s expert opinion was that in the unlikely event an explosion would take place that there would be no impact on the schools, churches or homes nearby, even in the worst case scenario. This is because of the distance an explosion will travel and a few other factors.
The below slide shows the distance from the metering station to nearby structures.
This image then shows you the circle of impact that would exist if an explosion occurred. Note its relation to the structures (they are outside any potential impact zone even in a worst case scenario).
In summary, Ali Reza, through his experience, knowledge and analysis reaches the conclusion that natural gas is not considered a hazardous substance by Dallas Township definition, risk of failure for the proposed metering station will be minimal, and if a risk would occur there would be no impact on the nearby structures. His expert conclusions are summarized in the following video.
Ali Reza’s Expert Opinion is Still Not Enough for the Opposition
Despite, Reza’s extensive background there were still quite a few people who were not satisfied with his answers. This is because they were not there to listen. They already had their minds made up and nothing would change their agenda. Even the opposing lawyers seemed to be on more of a witch hunt than actually concerned with evaluating what was said. One wanted to know “if this was his full time job,”. Another asked him if he would be willing to drink the anti-freeze like substance that is produced one to two times a year when the pipeline is cleaned. It was very discerning to watch them treat an expert of this caliber in such a manner.
Expert #2: John J. Coyle III, MAI, CRE
John Coyle, of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania was also called to testify as an expert. John, who runs his own firm Coyle, Lynch & Co, was called to discuss potential impacts the project may have on nearby land and real estate values. He is uniquely qualified for this given his extensive background. Briefly, he has been a licensed real estate broker in the State of Pennsylvania since 1971. He has been a certified real estate appraiser for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since 1989. He has certifications in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Texas and Colorado including specific certifications in zoning and land use. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Saint Joseph’s University and a Masters of Science in Real Estate Urban Development and Planning from the American University.
Adding further credence to his curriculum vitae, he has been qualified as an expert in the valuation of real and/or personal property in the Court of Common Pleas in 28 of the 67 counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; in the Supreme Court of the State of New York; in the Tax Court of the State of New Jersey to name a few. Obviously, there were no objections to his qualifications.
John Coyle’s Testimony
The subject of natural gas development decreasing property values is the latest fake argument created by anti-development interests to block natural gas development. As such John Coyle’s testimony centered around the discussion of whether or not living in close proximity to a pipeline, or metering station, would in fact lower property values.
Will Living Next to a Pipeline or Metering Station Lower Your Property Values?
Succinctly, the answer is NO. This should have been a no-brainer for residents who already live along the Transco line. Not to mention the existing metering station located just off the Dallas Memorial Highway where businesses are thriving (in fact a new commercial park was added less than a decade ago with the metering station in place). Despite the existing infrastructure in Dallas Township, Coyle came out to describe to residents why a new pipeline and metering station would also not lower their property values.
Coyle has visited the proposed project site several times to analyze the situation and reach his conclusions. He then compared Dallas Township with similar locations in Pennsylvania, both with and without pipelines nearby.
Please watch Coyle explain his comparisons in the following videos. In the second video, Coyle goes into further detail and also describes how most people do not even realize they are near a pipeline (a fact recognized by some GDACers themselves). Pay special attention around 6:45 when Coyle describes how a metering station is actually a portion of the safety aspect of a pipeline.
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So what were Mr. Coyle’s expert conclusions…
“[Metering stations] are no more obstructive than hundreds of thousands of others of building…this particular metering station on this particular site will have no significant effect on the value of the property of adjacent homes or homes at a distance.”
He is not unrealistic. He acknowledges that some people will not by a house near a pipeline, but looking at the big picture, most will weigh other factors more heavily. In fact, in the following clip, he even says that a structure like this is needed in a growing community.
The Dallas Middle School had to be cleared by 9pm and because of this, Coyle’s testimony is incomplete. When the hearing continues in August he will return to answer questions from opposing counsel, the township board, and local residents. We will discuss his testimony in greater detail when this occurs.
To Be Continued, Unfortunately…
Despite the level of scrutiny and transparency that has been a hallmark of this process the GDAC still is not satisfied and the elected officials in Dallas Township seem to lack the courage to make a rather simple decision. So, stay tuned to find out when the Chief hearing will be continued in August we will cover it here when it does.
The Citizens Voice today followed this story with another update on testimony provided by expert James Coyle. Click here to see this report.