EAST BRANDYWINE - Between 60 and 100 people voiced their concerns and strong opposition to AES Corp.'s plans to build an 87-mile natural gas pipeline between Sparrow's Point, Md., and Eagle, recently at the East Brandywine fire hall.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agen-cy charged with approving or disapproving the proposed gas pipeline, sponsored the forum.
"It is possible that construction could begin as early as late 2007, with a commercial operation date in late 2010," AES says on its project Web site. There are approximately 100 permits and approvals required by federal, state, and local agencies before construction may begin." Initial project cost estimates indicate it could cost $660 million to build.
Agency Project Mana-ger Joanne Wachholder said the gas company had yet to submit a formal proposal to the federal government, but public comments from the meeting would be used to formulate a draft environmental impact statement.
The EIS would neither approve nor disapprove of the plan, but rather would be used by the FERC commissioners as an evaluation tool.
"We have no ability to stop the application filing process, once the application is submitted," she said.
Federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Depart-ment of Transportation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Aviation Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency among others, would also evaluate the project.
AES figures from its project Web site show the pipeline would convey 1.5 billion cubic feet of compressed natural gas along its route.
Much of the pipeline would be built within a right of way controlled by Columbia Gas Co., ferrying gas from a shipping terminal along the Chesapeake Bay to a terminal off Fellowship Road in Upper Uwchlan. The pipeline will link at interaction points with pipe-lines owned by Transco and Texas Eastern, in addition to Columbia Gas.
The proposed pipeline follows a course through Lower Oxford at the southern extreme of Chester County, in a northeasterly direction, through Upper Oxford, Highland, Lon-donderry, East Fallowfield, Newlin, West Bradford, Caln, Downingtown, East Brandywine and Uwchlan before ending in Upper Uwchlan.
"I live one-and-a-half miles from the northern end of the proposed 87-mile pipeline," said Upper Uwchlan resident Hal Harper, who has helped his Windsor Place neighborhood organize to fight the second pipeline through their development in less than two years. "It will cross our property, not close as it will be to some of our neighbors, but close enough to destroy our sense of security, diminish our well-being and lower the value of our property."
Harper said three liquefied natural gas terminals exist between Georgia and Maine, another has been approved and six more, including Sparrows Point, have been approved.
"When is enough, enough?" he said. "I don't believe this proposed pipeline is to alleviate a problem of 'not enough gas' in the Northeast; I believe it's construction and operation is to generate more profits for an already rich company."
He also complained a gas explosion around Route 100 could damage Upper Uwchlan's ability to evacuate residents in an emergency.
"We collectively, here tonight, request you deny this application," Harper said.
Richard Worthington of Downingtown said he already had two gas lines running through his property. "I don't feel a third gas line can fit," Wor-thington said. "I am worried it could take the corner of my house, and I was told lies before when Columbia Gas came through. I don't feel any different now."
Harper neighbor and Upper Uwchlan resident Bill Vache said the previous Columbia Gas pipeline had eliminated a 60-foot swath of trees from his property.
"I don't want them to make me take more trees (from my property)," Vache said. "Then I would have a house that I couldn't give away, and there are other areas in the neighborhood where the pipe-line would go right up to the garage."
Vache asked the FERC representatives to give consideration to an Upper Uwchlan plan that would divert the pipeline around three potentially threatened developments.
"Many speakers have expressed their concerns to us about safety, and Upper Uwchlan is considered a high-quality water district, with a substantial amount of water discharging into Marsh Creek Lake Park," said Township Manager John J. Roughan Jr. "We would like to alert you to the fact the town-ship will be having its engineers submitting alternate routes to avoid areas of congested easements and development, and we will submit documents with alternate routes."
Upper Uwchlan Super-visors' Chairman Charles Lobb protested the pipeline saying historical circumstances resulted in his township's place as home to nine gas pipelines while it still was a rural community.
"We are now an urban scene," Lobb said. "We are opposed to this pipeline because we have be-tween one and three alternate routes that our engineers have looked, and we feel that it should be directed in another way, so it is less threatening in case of an emergency."
Lobb said three Upper Uwchlan developments could be potentially affected by the proposed pipeline.
George Supplee, who owns a farm in West Bradford with his brother, said he once worked on a project in Delaware where a 20-psi pipeline ruptured, compared with the 2,200-psi pipeline AES is proposing.
"Flame spewed between 50 and 100 feet into the air, and it was a pipeline of less than one percent of what is being proposed," he said.
Supplee's son George Jr. testified that an earlier pipeline had been built across their farm; consequently, they have been unable to grow anything on that portion of their land.
"We have an area of land that we have to pay taxes on that we don't make enough money on to support it," he said.
FERC geologist Laura Turner said resident and municipal concerns about the pipeline alignment would be accounted for, and evaluated before the agency's commissioners make their recommendations.
Those with concerns have until June 16 to submit comments to FERC.