It’s official – energy savings and more jobs are one step closer for industries, businesses and residents in Centre, Clinton and Mifflin counties with the formation of the SEDA-COG Natural Gas Cooperative, Inc.

The cooperative, which had its first board of directors meeting on July 22 in Centre County, will seek to provide project funding and form partnerships to expand natural gas distribution infrastructure in those counties.

While central Pennsylvania sits on a large reservoir of natural gas, limited existing distribution infrastructure presents a problem that the cooperative hopes to help solve. The availability of lower-cost energy alternatives such as natural gas can be a key component in attracting new business and industry to the region, and access to natural gas in residential areas is commonly sought.

Because the cost of building new delivery pipelines can be expensive, the cooperative aims to create partnerships and seek external funding opportunities to facilitate development of new natural gas delivery infrastructure.

The cooperative expects to work with landowners, natural gas distribution companies, local, regional, state, and federal governments, economic development agencies, and private industry to help provide infrastructure to areas that were identified in a recently completed SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) Regional Gas Utilization Initiative (RGUI) study project. This study identified and prioritized potential areas for new natural gas distribution service in Centre, Clinton, and Mifflin counties.

The cooperative board will further consider these areas to implement infrastructure projects. It is hoped that revenues from the future provision of gas service in the three-county area by the nonprofit cooperative can be reinvested in the cooperative’s region to provide continued development of new natural gas infrastructure projects.

In order to support the cooperative’s operations and project development, the board approved the submission of a $60,000 grant application to the U.S. Appalachian Regional Commission to fund the development of a business plan. The plan will serve as a roadmap for first steps through project implementation for natural gas delivery infrastructure.

The initial 10-person cooperative board includes three directors from each county, plus one non-voting member from SEDA-COG. SEDA-COG is the primary administrative support agency for the cooperative.

Officers elected by the board are Clinton County Commissioner Pete Smeltz (president), Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe (vice president), Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation President Robert Postal (treasurer), and SEDA-COG’s senior principal program analyst Don Kiel (secretary).

Other board directors are Robert Jacobs, director of Centre County’s Office of Planning and Community Development; Sue Hannegan, assistant director of Centre County’s planning office; Tim Holladay, director of Clinton County’s Planning Department; Roland Weaver, Mill Hall Borough Council member (in Clinton County); Bill Gomes, director of Mifflin County’s Planning and Development Department; and Mike Tate, president of GME Communications, LLC, who represents Mifflin County.