Leatherstocking Gas Company representative Russell Miller gave a presentation Tuesday to the Wyalusing Township supervisors on the company's hopes of providing natural gas to the area.

The same presentation was given to the Wyalusing Borough council last month with, according to Miller, a good response from council members.

Leatherstocking currently offers natural gas service to 13 municipalities in Susquehanna County, he said.

Miller described the company as a "regulated monopoly," a company which has no competitors in the area, but is regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission in an attempt to protect customers from unsubstantiated price increases.

"Basically the PUC says we can only make so much per year," Miller said, "if we start losing money because of bad business decisions, we won't be allowed to raise rates because of it."

The company is currently searching for an "anchor customer" in Wyalusing, a large company or organization like Cargill or the Wyalusing Area School District to commit to using natural gas.

If a deal is made, a pipeline would be built direct to the anchor customer, and then smaller diameter piping would be branched off to homes and small businesses along the way.

Working in this manner saves smaller customers money, as costs for pipeline construction would mainly be passed to the anchor customer.

Miller explained the cost effectiveness of natural gas as a heating fuel in a sales pitch to potential customers. He said the numbers presented were, "a few months old."

At a unit cost of $12.58 per Mcf of natural gas, fuel oil would have to be $1.74 per gallon to be equally cost effective. As of March 18, fuel oil prices were at $3.74 per gallon in Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

For propane, the cost per gallon would have to be $1.15 to rival natural gas, a number which was at $2.92 per gallon in PA on March 18.

Electric heating would be financially equal to natural gas at a price of $.04 per Kwh, a price which Miller said is around $.11 now.

Switching to natural gas would bring savings of approximately 54 percent over fuel oil, 71 percent over propane and 64 percent over electric.

The cost to convert to natural gas depends on what means of heating is used, but can range anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000, a price which Miller said can be made up with savings in as little as a year.

Miller suggested those who are in the market for heating now choose propane if looking to switch to natural gas in the future, as it offers the easiest and cheapest conversion.

The planned pipeline will consist of 2.5 miles of four inch diameter piping running along Route 6 through Wyalusing and branching onto Route 706 towards Cargill. Smaller two inch diameter piping would be placed strategically throughout the borough.

Miller also spoke of a pipeline project which would provide small amounts of natural gas service to Camptown.

If Leatherstocking moves into Wyalusing, emergency responders would be trained on an annual basis and detection equipment would be supplied to them, Miller noted.

A job increase could also take place, he said.

HVAC jobs would be created for customers looking to convert to natural gas and full time surveyors would be employed to inspect one third of the pipeline each year.

"In Pennsylvania you're all aware of what's going on with natural gas; you're sitting on top of it. The missing link is having it available and that's what we're looking to do," Miller said.

Tim Zyla can be reached at (570) 265-1634; or e-mail: tzyla@thedailyreview.com.