Town leaders have begun an exploration into the feasibility of tapping into the Tennessee Gas Pipeline which runs through Waveny Park to bring natural gas to five nearby buildings; , , and the .
On Tuesday, April 12, representatives of Yankee Gas made presentations to the and the to explain the process. The initiative is being led by and .
Walker told the Selectmen that the idea first came up in a “casual conversation” about four years ago when the gas company was doing work on the pipeline. Walker said he and Assistant Director of Public Works Tiger Mann discussed the possibility of tapping into the gas line with workers on the site. He said Baker has led the way with the project since then.
“You might say why is the fire marshal involved?” Baker said. “Downtown is very congested. We have a lot of restaurants and more coming in. Restaurants need gas to cook. They use propane. There are propane tanks all over town to feed these restaurants. They were all installed according to the laws, requirements of propane tank installation, but God forbid we ever have a fire. It’s a dense area. That’s my concern, that’s my reason for getting natural gas in town.”
Baker said the Tennessee Gas Pipeline was installed in the 50s and over the years the town has had discussions about tapping into the line. “For whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened,” he said.
Yankee Gas, which according to its website is Connecticut's largest natural gas distribution company, would handle distribution for New Canaan. Yankeegas delivers natural gas to approximately 200,000 customers in 71 cities and towns across the state, the website said.
Greta Mead, an account executive with Yankee Gas, told the Selectmen the first step would be to build a “gate station” in Waveny Park. In a gate station, the pressure is reduced so gas can be redirected to local lines.
Baker said the building would be about 20-feet by 70-feet, and the site under consideration is near the water tower in Waveny Park. He said the building cost would be shared by the town and Yankee Gas, with the town’s portion estimated to be about $2.7 million.
“Building the gate station is a one time up front cost,” Baker said. “Once it’s done, it’s done. It would serve the town’s needs for at least 100 years. It would never need to be expanded or added on to. It will be sized big enough to handle the capacity for the town.”
Baker said the high school, Saxe, South School and Waveny all have dual fuel burners and would need no retrofitting to accommodate natural gas. Savings and environmental concerns both factor into the exploration into the alternative energy source, he said.
Mead said Yankee Gas projections indicate natural gas prices will be lower than oil prices for at least the next 10 years. “There are cost benefits, and for towns that want a “green identity,” it is cleaner burning, which is better for the environment,” she said.
Most of the natural gas produced in the U.S. comes from the gulf states, but Michael R. Collins, a sales manager for Yankeegas, said the gas used in New Canaan would come from Pennsylvania.
“The Pennsylvania gas, is that hydrofracking?” Selectman Sally Hines asked. “It’s gotten very negative publicity.”
“If done properly, there is virtually no environmental risk,” Collins said.
The presentations at both the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance meetings were informational, and were the first of many more such meetings to come, according to town administrator Tom Stadler.
“This is just a very early heads up,” he said. “There’s no vote involved. You’ve got to talk to very near every commission in town. P&Z, Environmental, Conservation, Park & Recreation, Town Council, just about everybody. You’ve got to start somewhere. They’ve lined them all up. They’re going to go through all the boards and commissions and committees.”