Solution found to Kingston gas issue?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 23, 2017

NATCHEZ — After hearing about a much-anticipated solution to the likelihood of losing natural gas service Kingston residents offered an ovation Tuesday.

“I think the solution is going to be the best thing for us,” Kingston resident Steve Shannon said. “We have a lot of older people out here in Kingston and they can’t afford to have their houses switched to support electric. They can’t come up with $3,000 to $4,000 for new appliances.”

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Vice President of Business Development for Pinnacle Propane of Houston Harris Baker was one of the presenters at the Tuesday’s community meeting at Cliff Temple Baptist Church, and he said very little would change for customers in switching from natural gas service to his company’s propane hybrid.

Baker said the company has a propane-air mixture that acts like natural gas. Baker said it produces the same blue flame, will work with appliances that use natural gas, will be a metered, pay-as-you-use product and if the gas leaks will smell the same as natural gas.

The system will work with the lines that are in place now, Baker said.

Baker said the gas lines under Kingston are fine, the issue is the natural gas pipeline currently transporting gas from Monroe, La.

American Midstream Partners is replacing a 1920s-era line that runs from Monroe to Baton Rouge with a line that will run from Franklin Parish into Adams County.

However, the new line would be capped at Cloverdale, which will cut off Kingston residents using natural gas.Baker said the only difference customers might notice would be that it would be about 20 percent more expensive than natural gas and that some residences might have dated pipes or systems that would need to be upgraded.

“I think you will find we will address any issues,” Baker said. “I think if we find them, we will address them in an attempt to do right and not have it on your tab.

“We want the expense burden to be as minimal as possible.”

On a level pay system, which attempts to average annual costs to make monthly bills consistent, Shannon says he pays $45 each month. A 20-percent increase would make a $45 bill approximately $54 each month.

“That’s not bad at all compared to what it could be,” Shannon said.

Rene Garza, the president of Mississippi River Gas, which owns the system and will continue to bill customers, said customers could continue to utilize the level pay option.

While the company would have to truck gas in to fill up a centralized tank, Baker said he did not believe residents would notice.

“It doesn’t make noise and will be screened in and hidden enough that for all intents and purposes, you won’t know it is there,” he said.

The 18,000-gallon tank should contain enough gas, Baker said, to require refills only four to six times a year, with more trips occurring during the winter months than summer.

Baker said in the area, the company is servicing the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, which was also cut off from its natural gas service when the pipeline shutdown.

District 2 Supervisor David Carter said he vetted how the solution was working at WCCF, which has been using the propane-hybrid for a couple months.

“They have had no issues at the prison. That was a pretty high boost of confidence in the system,” Carter said.

The propane-hybrid solution has also been implemented in many communities throughout the U.S., though Kingston would be the first one in Mississippi, Carter said.

“If you look in Texas, there are new developments being built all the time,” Carter said. “Some of them are isolated and will use this same set up indefinitely. If the area gets natural gas, they would switch. If not, they would use this.”

Scott Langston with American Midstream Partners said Carter and Garza have been working with him since this issue began over the summer. Langston said the company would keep the natural gas supply flowing until an alternative supply can be brought in.

“You have some very strong advocates for you here locally,” Langston said. “They are all very eager to make sure there is a long term solution in place.

“Make sure you shake their hands, send them a note, a letter or even baked goods if you want,” Langston said, laughing.

The company was originally set to cap the gas line in 2016, but Carter pushed to keep it open through the winter.

Baker said he hoped to have Kingston on the system by the end of April, but ultimate approval would be up to the Public Service Commission.

Kingston’s Donnie McIlwain said not only is this a good solution, but it is the only solution other than converting to electric or propane, which could cost thousands of dollars.

“I want to thank David personally for this effort,” McIlwain said. “He has logged in many hours seeking this solution.

“This is a lot of effort for us few residents in Kingston.”

Carter said 152 residences are impacted, which amounts to approximately 500 people. More than 50 people were at the meeting Tuesday.