July 23, 2008

NYSEG, Town of Plattsburgh Explore Natural Gas for Part of Cumberland Head

By Dan Heath, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Jul. 23--PLATTSBURGH -- New York State Electric & Gas and the Town of Plattsburgh are exploring the possibility of bringing natural gas to some Cumberland Head residents.

The idea is to take advantage of an opportunity created by the town's decision to install a pump station and sewer line from Champlain Park to Cumberland Corners.

Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett said that, as that plan moves forward, town officials have been in conversation with Mark Leta, NYSEG regional operations manager for the Plattsburgh area, in an effort to share services.

"We're digging the ditch anyway," Bassett said.

The transmission-line trench will run from Cumberland Corners along the south side of Cumberland Head Road, then behind Kensington Court and across some fields to Champlain Park.

About 100 people who attended a meeting to gauge interest said they live in that area and would like to have the option of natural-gas service.

NYSEG has to meet New York State Public Service Commission requirements to expand its natural-gas distribution network. That includes ensuring it is economically feasible, so existing customers don't pay to subsidize new customers.


The utility has examined natural gas for Cumberland Head probably three times in the past, Leta said.

One sticking point has always been the 21,000 feet of trench to reach Champlain Park and other residences along the route. That cost would be dramatically reduced if NYSEG and the town can share the 9,000 feet of trench that the sewer line requires.

"That had been our stumbling block before this opportunity arose," Leta said.

NYSEG Marketing and Sales Lead Analyst Jurgen Huising said the utility usually needs one customer for every 100 feet of natural-gas-main extension. It would need about 210 new customers if NYSEG dug all the trenches alone but about 120 customers with a shared trench.


NYSEG offers a rebate of up to $500 for customers to convert their central heating systems to natural gas. Those rebates are available to customers who sign a letter of commitment before Dec. 31.

Huising said the average natural-gas customer will save $1,500 compared to heating oil and $1,400 compared to propane this year.

He said it costs about $1,200 to convert a furnace to burn natural gas, which would be reduced to about $700 with a rebate.


The sewer project is expected to commence shortly after bids are opened in August.

Leta said those who want natural gas should return the materials in the commitment packets by the first week of August.

"Once we see who's interested, we can design our system," Leta said.

That will allow NYSEG to determine if it's economically feasible.


Stephane Thibault of Culligan Point Road, which is on the north (opposite) side of Cumberland Head, urged NYSEG to explore bringing natural-gas service to that side also. He said more than 100 people signed a petition he created in support of that.

The company has a window of opportunity to get new customers, he said, but that will close because people are going to have to seek heating alternatives for the upcoming winter.

Aaron and Melissa Benner live in Champlain Park. They are interested, but also wonder if natural-gas prices will also rise, which would make the cost of switching immaterial.

"I'm happy we had the opportunity to look at this," Mr. Benner said. "I think the town has done a good job working with NYSEG to present this."

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