TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — The New York State Public Service Commission has approved a $4 million NYSEG compressor pilot project, an alternative to the previously proposed West Dryden Road natural gas pipeline.

Local officials say the project is a positive move that addresses reliability concerns while cutting down the use of fossil fuels.

For several years, New York State Electric and Gas planned constructing a 7.4-mile gas pipeline referred to as the West Dryden Road pipeline or Lansing/Freeville Reinforcement Gas Pipeline Project to meet the demand for the Lansing area and address safety and reliability issues.

The project was long debated by local residents until earlier this year NYSEG drew up a proposal for a compressor pilot project as an alternative to the pipeline.

Commission Chair John Rhodes said in a statement there was significant input from the local community supporting the proposal. More than 100 residents filed comments, and the proposal also had support from the Sierra Club, the Alliance for Non-Pipe Alternatives and the Environmental Defense Fund.

“Our decision today is based, in part, upon New York’s goals along with the significant public input we received from the local community keen to protect the environment and reduce the community’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Rhodes said in a news release. “With the environment in mind, the pilot project is intended to boost the gas distribution system’s ability to maintain reliable supply without the need to build a new gas pipeline.”

Related: Tompkins County looks at alternative to West Dryden Road pipeline

Now that the Commission has approved the pilot project, NYSEG will move forward by installing four electrically powered compressors strategically placed within the gas distribution system to boost system pressures in stages during peak demand tims.

Peak demand days are often in the winter when people crank up the heat. When this happens, the pressure in the gas system is at risk of dropping to very low levels, NYSEG has said.

There are about 19,000 industrial, commercial, residential, public authority and college facilities connected to NYSEG’s natural gas system in Tompkins County, NYSEG said in a letter to the New York State Public Service Commission. As natural gas demands have increased over the years, some areas have been severely constrained and are under a moratorium with prevents adding new customers, NYSEG said.

In September, Tompkins County Legislature unanimously supported NYSEG’s compressor proposal. Tompkins County Area Development also supported the project.

Legislator Martha Robertson said she applauds the Commission’s willingness to work with the community to find “new ways to address old problems.”

“Tompkins County has already seen significant local development without gas – using energy-efficient air and ground-source heat-pumps in applications from single-family homes to large scale housing and commercial projects,” Robertson said in a news release. “NYSEG’s request for proposals will enable our community to innovate even further.”

Anthony Ingraffea, Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Emeritus and Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow at Cornell University, said the decision “will be remembered as marking the end of fossil fuel expansion in Tompkins County, and the beginning of statewide enlightenment: government, utilities, and citizens can collaborate on meeting our necessary energy transformation goals.”

NYSEG’s pilot project for compressors is new and has not been tested in New York before, the Commission said. NYSEG plans to have the project up and running by the 2018/2019 winter heating season.

The installation of the compressors is not a complete solution for gas needs and will not eliminate the need for a moratorium. It will be designed to only address current low-pressure issues in the system. NYSEG plans to begin exploring proposals to address the demands for gas service in the area, for existing and new customers.

To read all the documents associated with NYSEG’s proposal to the Commission, visit, click “search” and enter the case number 17-G-0432.

Featured image: On right, Martha Robertson gives a presentation in February about Tompkins County exploring an alternative to a proposed Dryden pipeline. Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.