February 2020, Vol. 247, No. 2

Editor's Notebook

Gas Pipeline Gains Unlikely Ally (This Time)


By Michael Reed, Editor-in-Chief

In a roundabout way of looking at things, the pipeline industry received an unexpected Christmas gift recently when the Rev. Jessie Jackson offered his hearty endorsement for the construction of a natural gas pipeline in a community near Chicago, Ill. (And, yes, I am writing about that Jessie Jackson.)

Jackson, who is generally thought of as a left-leaning figure, to put it mildly, is working with a group of local leaders of Pembroke Township in an effort to bring natural gas service via a pipeline to the community, where the majority of residents warm their homes in the frigid North with propane or wood-burning stoves.

This peculiar turn of events comes at a time when some other communities are actively attempting to limit consumer access to natural gas, and from an organizer who is only a couple of years removed from joining protesters in opposing the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Jackson’s primary reason for supporting the pipeline and the use of natural gas is the poverty found within Pembroke, technically a township of Waukegan County, where the annual median income is about $16,000 and unemployment hovers at 30%.

He is, of course, correct in taking this position. Buying propane and wood to heat homes gets to be an expensive proposition over the course of long Midwest winters, particularly for people who frequently don’t have family vehicles for the transportation of things such as cords of firewood. 

What Jackson does not mention, however, is that natural gas is also a far cleaner burning fuel than what most residents of the community now use.

This is not only better for the environment, a cause that he routinely champions, but also healthier for the lungs of people living in these homes. (Anyone who has ever spent time around a wood-burning stove, particularly an older one, can attest to this fact.) A cleaner environment, in turn, will keep down medical expenses in both the short- and long-term. 

This is not a revolutionary idea proposed by Jackson, and his rationale is solid, but there is, of course, a financial threshold to be considered. 

Nearby Hopkins Park residents have found themselves in much the same position as Pembroke Township for years– without natural gas service – and still do. 

“This community has been overlooked for 48 years for natural gas,” Hopkins Park Mayor Mark Hodge told NBC-TV affiliate WMAQ back in 2014 when an economic study was about to be undertaken. “We’re in need of industry. We’re in need of jobs, and schools need natural gas.”

Nicor Gas, headquartered in nearby Naperville, told PGJ the company agrees with Jackson’s assessment, adding that natural gas serves as an economic driver as well.

“We look forward to working with our state and federal policymakers, business partners and the community to provide Pembroke with the resources it needs to succeed,” Nicor spokeswoman Jennifer Golz said.

Regardless of how one might feel about subsidies, financial assistance, etc., this validation of natural gas and the pipelines supplying it to homes and businesses, coming from such an unlikely source, serves as a clear indication of how much value people without access, regardless of their political views, place on natural gas.

It’s something the industry should be quick to point out to naysayers.

POC Back for 16th Annual Event

Just a reminder, Pipeline & Gas Journal, in partnership with the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) and the SMU Maguire Energy Institute, will present the Pipeline Opportunities Conference (POC) on March 3.

The day-long conference features energy executives, representing pipeline operators, associations, service companies and the federal government, discussing such topics as the Mega Rule and liquefied natural gas (LNG) as it relates to pipeline projects and construction.

The one-day event will be held at the Westin Galleria, 5060 W. Alabama St. For further information, visit www.pipelineopportunities.com.

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