Community pitted in gas pipeline talks

Published 12:06am Thursday, April 3, 2014

For more than 80 years, natural gas has flowed through the Miss-Lou. While we don’t expect that to stop anytime soon, unfortunately a corporate poker game, of sorts, is going on that may cause many residents to worry.

The main natural gas pipeline that feeds Natchez, Vidalia, Ferriday, Woodville and other local communities is under fire by, of all people, its new owners.

American Midstream Partners, which is owned by a Boston-based hedge fund, ArcLight Capital Partners — has officially filed a request to abandon the pipeline. The company argues the pipeline is worn out and too costly to replace so it should be abandoned.

If that were to happen, our corner of the world would have to suddenly find another source for natural gas to feed hot water heaters, home furnaces and a myriad of other residential and industrial uses.

But most people close to the situation feel the pipeline’s new owners are simply bluffing.

The stakes are high and even playing the hand will be costly.

Hedge funds, by their nature, seek to squeeze money from businesses they own. In this case, that’s natural gas consumers. If doing so requires squeezing its customers and terrifying residents into thinking their home furnaces may be dry this winter, so be it, as far as the hedge fund is concerned.

What they ultimately want is the ability to pass along the costs of repairing or replacing the line to any and all users of their product — something they have a right to do.

As Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said, the issue is one of “David and Goliath” proportions.

Unfortunately, to slay this issue, the communities involved may require piles of money to defend against the abandonment proposal.

Wouldn’t it be easier if all the parties could simply sit down and hammer out a deal that makes sense for all sides?