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Town: Natural Gas Must Come to Residents, Businesses for Project Viability

Experts on the town's Utilities Commission are eager for Yankee Gas to study how many residences and businesses would tap a natural gas line given the opportunity.

 

The gas utility might foot an estimated $2 million-plus bill to help bring natural gas to New Canaan if the town can show that there’s wide interest among key New Canaan residents and businesses in tapping the service, officials say.

Fuel oil has become increasingly more expensive than gas, so the proposed tapping of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline is expected to save up to 50 percent on energy costs in town homes, businesses and public buildings, according to the New Canaan Utilities Commission.

Proponents of the project also cite as a major reason to pursue gas the relative safety of gas lines over propane tanks for businesses such as restaurants.

Yet it isn’t clear who would pay for required infrastructure—mainly a “gate station” that’s needed to reduce pressure in the pipeline by about 90 percent in order to run lines to town. The 18- to 20-inch pipe runs from Maine down to the Mexico border in Texas.

For the Connecticut utility, Yankee Gas, knowing that homes between Waveny and downtown New Canaan along South Avenue would sign up for the service could mean the town doesn’t have to fund the station's construction, according to Utilities Commission Member Scott LaShelle.

That’s because limiting the service to just five large buildings—South, Saxe and New Canaan High Schools, as well as the YMCA and Waveny Care Center—wouldn’t justify the utility’s making the full estimated $2 million to $3 million investment in infrastructure.

Commission Chair Dan Welch said Yankee Gas should “demonstrate to us a long-term plan throughout a lot more of the community."

“It’s not just about the low-hanging fruit,” Welch said at the commission’s meeting Monday night at the New Canaan Nature Center Discovery Room. “They are a public utility so there has to be some plan to get gas to everybody—especially when it is going to go downtown, where safety is a key consideration.”

The all-volunteer commission has spearheaded efforts to identify a workable plan to tap the pipeline, as well as to boost cellphone service in town, since re-forming about one year ago.

Welch—who himself credits former Fire Commissioner Roger Williams and First Selectman Rob Mallozzi for bringing him to the group—was joined Monday by fellow members Geoffrey Pickard, Derek Bennett and LaShelle (all pictured).

During the meeting, the commission unanimously approved a recommendation letter to be delivered to the town Parks and Recreation Commission. That group now becomes involved because the gate station itself would be located in Waveny—likely along an inconspicuous stretch that runs between Lapham Road and the parking lot that serves the paddle tennis courts, Spencer’s Run and town pool.

LaShelle told Patch during a phone interview that Yankee Gas officials think the “load”—that is, the potential customer base that would tap the gas line—is large enough that the town doesn’t have to pay anything up front for the service. Yankee Gas could not immediately be reached for comment.

The next step from the utility’s end is to conduct a “load study,” LaShelle said. Then, the utility would need the go-ahead from Connecticut’s Public Utility Regulatory Authority. If the town approved what its experts on the Utilities Commission—as well as town officials such as Fire Marshal Fred Baker—have recommended, then the work conceivably could begin next spring and wrap up by the end of the summer.

“There’s a lot of money to be saved for everybody if we can bring this natural gas service to town,” LaShelle said.

Responsibility February 06, 2013 at 12:41 PM
That LaShelle is a smart dude, bring on the gas. I will convert my fossil fuel burning truck it natgas comes to town.
Julie Kurtzman February 06, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Please bring natural gas to Ponus Ridge! It's so much cheaper, cleaner and you can't run out!!!!!
Evil Squirrel February 06, 2013 at 12:57 PM
Should this initiative gain momentum, perhaps it will be useful to factor in the possibility of burying power lines concurrent with building out gas lines to residents. Any progress on that front would be a positive.
Responsibility February 06, 2013 at 01:06 PM
Evil speedbump, surely you jest. Two utilities working together on the same project, ha that's ludicrous. There will be so many obstacles to begin with on the gas project. Just imagine the traffic on south avenue while the lay the pipe in that zone. It would have to be done during the summer during school break. Also down elm street with the CL&P transformers under the street. Can't wait to hear the talk at those board meetings. If Wilton can so it so can we!
Responsibility February 06, 2013 at 01:09 PM
By the way lets all call Yankee gas and give them some encouragement. They may be willing to pay the tab on this one and at approximately $300 per linear foot that extremely generous of them !!!
NCmom February 06, 2013 at 01:14 PM
How do we express our interest in getting tapped into the gas line?
robert February 06, 2013 at 02:45 PM
gas for everyone in New Canaan and buried power lines to when the trenches are open!! as Nike says: just do it
Betty J. Lovastik February 06, 2013 at 03:21 PM
I have NEVER lived in a house with oil heat prior to moving to New Canaan 15 years ago. Here are my thoughts. The homeowner would have costs associated with the conversion from oil to gas: 1. the need to purchase a new "gas" furnace since your current one will not work on gas. (Several thousand dollars depending upon size of your home and furnace). 2. removal of your oil tank and oil furnace 3. purchase & installation of a gas meter 4. cost to bring the gas line from the "street main" into your home (that is, running the pipe over your property and into your house). 5. monthly "service and maintenance fees" for the pipeline and bringing the service into your home. (i.e., look at the "extra costs on your Cable bill every month....and these rates go up every year). That said, if you plan to stay in New Canaan to break even on your investment, it may be worthwhile. If you plan to leave New Canaan in the near future, it may not be a prudent decision. My monthly water bill at my out-of-state vacation home is $66.50 for using ZERO gallons of water. I have no choice as the water company is the only one in the area. These are service and maintenance fees as well as a minimum water usage cost. Since there is no other water company in the area, I must pay whatever the fee is. Yankee Gas would have a monopoly over the gas product so I would be cautious as to what their monthly fees would be.
Hector Medina February 06, 2013 at 06:55 PM
A few comments: 1.- AFAIK,Gas for domestic usage is not suitable for Automotive consumption. 2.- NOT two separate utilities, even though they operate as separate companies, Yankee Gas is "sister" to CL&P. Yes, they should coordinate a PROPER power line burial solution with the corresponding gas piping activities. 3.- Piped Natural Gas (PNG) is CRUCIAL to the Town's capability for dealing with strong stormy weather/emergency events. Having PNG would allow the community buildings most suitable to act as shelters to have uninterrupted services. 4.- You can Email your support for PNG to the Utilities Commission: Utilities.Commission@newcanaanct.gov 5.- Not all oil furnaces are inadequate for burning PNG, it all depends on the age and the design. Some furnaces can even be "dual fuel", so that you have a CHOICE about which fuel to use every day, week, month or year, if Code allows it here. Unless you want to leave the Oil burning possibility and unless you commit ONLY to PNG, you do not have to get the old oil tank out. Yes on the meter's and low pressure pipes running from the street mains to your house costs. Monthly service and maintenance fees can or cannot be built into the gas rate. I would like to see detailed numbers of YG's costs as well as the proposed electric rates for all next year. I feel that the electric rates have gone up substantially and that would make tri-generation for the Schools, the WCC and the Y an interesting alternative.
Charles Timberlake February 06, 2013 at 07:59 PM
Please get the pipeline to run up Ponus, Oenoke and Smith Ridges. Reckon you will get at least 60pct signup on these roads, then can branch out to the neighborhoods and get the whole town hooked up AND (if feasible) at the same time bury the power/phone/cable lines at relatively lower cost to once and for all rid ourselves of the extremely expensive nuisance every time we have a minor windstorm.
Nicole February 07, 2013 at 02:56 AM
1 in many cases a boiler can accept a gas burner for less than 1k 2 there is no need to remove an oil tank 3 you do not purchase a gas meter 4. Many times this cost will be absorbed by the utility 5 Yankee gas has two charges, delivery charge and the actual gas charge which is deregulated. Bring on the gas
Nicole February 07, 2013 at 03:00 AM
Electric rates are at their lowest rates in almost 10 years, down nearly 30% per kw from the high

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