To help expand access to natural gas and further stimulate economic development, Northumberland County has joined the SEDA-COG Natural Gas Cooperative.

This brings the cooperative’s county membership to six: Centre, Clinton, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, and Perry.

Northumberland County Commissioner Rick Shoch said, “Commissioner Schiccatano and I are excited to be part of this cooperative effort that will help bring economic energy to rural areas of our county and spur development and job growth to benefit our communities. We look forward to working with the other member counties and partners from the private sector to make the most of this very forward-thinking initiative.”

Don Kiel, the cooperative’s executive director, noted that the county has several areas that may be well suited for natural gas project development.

“We worked with Northumberland County earlier to identify priority targeted investment areas for new natural gas service, and now we hope to move quickly to implement development of that service,” Kiel said. “We believe the cooperative can serve as the catalyst to form public-private partnerships and procure funding to support these projects.”

The SEDA-COG Natural Gas Cooperative, which was established on June 9, 2016 by Centre, Clinton, and Mifflin counties, seeks to provide project funding and form partnerships to expand natural gas distribution infrastructure to its member counties.

The cooperative’s goal to fill the gaps so farms, industries, businesses, and residences can better access natural gas is to be accomplished through the building of partnerships with counties, private stakeholders, utilities, and state and federal agencies.

“These partnerships are to encourage the development of natural gas projects that will directly benefit the region’s economy,” Kiel said.

Approaches will be tailored to each potential project’s needs. The cooperative may coordinate and jointly develop projects with existing natural gas utilities and other companies. The cooperative may be involved in funding, building, owning, and maintaining new infrastructure, as well as working together with utility companies to promote extensions to their systems.

The cooperative was formed because while there is a large abundance of natural gas in the state that presents a tremendous opportunity for economic growth and energy savings, there also is a great challenge to realize those benefits. Natural gas is a clean, less expensive, local energy source – but getting it to businesses and homes can be difficult.

While there are many traditional natural gas distribution companies in Pennsylvania that provide excellent, safe delivery systems to their customers, it may be too costly for them to build new infrastructure in some areas.

Also, in Pennsylvania, local natural gas distribution companies’ service areas are regulated by the Public Utility Commission, and utilities have limited flexibility to set rates. Their cost economics may influence willingness to provide new service, and maintaining safe existing infrastructure also requires significant investment.

The cooperative’s approach, however, may be more cost-effective and efficient to market or procure natural gas service.