Oklahoma-firm faces backlash over pipeline public meetings

Written by Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania | Jul 14, 2014 5:10 AM

Photo by Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvahia

(Harrisburg) -- A natural gas pipeline company is responding to criticism over how it’s handled public meetings about a pipeline it’s seeking to build through parts of central Pennsylvania.

Federal regulators require Oklahoma-based Williams Partners to hold public meetings in communities affected by the pipeline. 

The company recently held 10 meetings, but never gave a formal presentation, or answered questions before a crowd. 

Instead its employees spoke one-on-one with residents.

Spokesman Chris Stockton tells WITF's Smart Talk the company has already re-routed about a quarter of the pipeline in response to feedback.

But, he says it wouldn’t commit to holding more meetings in a format where the public could hear all the questions and answers.

“We want that to be productive and we want that to be an opportunity for people to get their questions answered, and not necessarily in a setting that can be less than productive," he says. "I think that’s something we try to balance.”

Williams recently rebuffed a request by Lebanon County Commissioners to hold a public meeting.

Stockton says the company has already changed about a quarter of the pipeline route in response to public feedback.

“We are doing our best to answer questions as they come in. I know that we get a lot of questions over email, we’ve got a 1-800 number. We’ve been meeting with landowners individually," he says.

If approved by federal regulators, the pipeline would transport Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas, southward through four midstate counties, including Lebanon and Lancaster counties, to markets along the eastern seaboard.

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