Residents Have Questions for Enstar on Homer Gas Pipeline


     Representatives from Enstar were in Homer again Wednesday night, discussing options for homeowners interested in hooking up to the natural gas pipeline. Construction on the trunk line into town is expected to begin February.

     Three concerns kept coming up during the gathering: natural gas supply, up-front costs for converting appliances and connecting to the pipeline, and the possibility of service interruptions.  To the first point, Enstar’s Communications and Customer Service Director John Sims said the company currently purchases all of its natural gas locally. But he pointed out the forecasted shortage in energy coming from Cook Inlet. That would lead Enstar to import gas.

     “It’s important to remember we’re not looking to import 100 percent of our gas,” Sims said, “It’s a percentage of the needs for the local communities. We’re looking at a potential cost of $9 to $15 for imported gas per MCF. In this quarter we’ll be paying $7.25… it gets blended into a weighted average cost of gas.”

     Sims said using natural gas would still be a cheaper alternative to fuel oil, propane or electricity even if imported gas pushes the rate up slightly. According to Enstar, the expected average monthly cost to heat a residence would be $158.33. The company compares that to an average of $382 for fuel oil and about twice that amount for propane and electricity. 

     Southern Division Operations Manager Charlie Pierce says Enstar plans to have gas in the pipe as of August 1st of this year. The application process will get underway in a couple weeks. Pierce said residents must convert appliances and make any necessary adjustments in their homes or building’s plumbing before Enstar will meter a residence.

     “The average residential home is going to pay about $200 per meter. The service line’s going to cost you $1,290 for the first 100 ft. of service line and $2 per foot thereafter,” he said.

     Pierce said one thing to remember is that the meter will be located on the front one-third of a home or building, which could mean additional plumbing to connect appliances to the meter. The $1,290 rate is good only for the 2013 phase of construction. Residents who would be connected after the second phase of pipe, which is slated for 2014, may pay a higher fee. But he said anyone interested could apply now and lock in this year’s rate. 

     Pierce also tried to soothe concerns about the possibility of major service disruptions. He and Sims both pointed out the number of precautions and regulations that are in place to protect the main transmission line into town.

     “If there’s anyone who is doing any sort of digging by our trunk line, or any of our transmission lines, we’re going to have a crew on site personally watching to ensure the safety and reliability of that job,” Sims said, “There’s a higher risk on a back street than there is on a transmission pipeline because those same requirements aren’t there.”

     Another piece of the natural gas puzzle is the Homer Special Assessment District. If the measure is approved, property owners would be billed $3,283 per lot to pay for construction of the trunk line. Homer officials are hosting another public hearing at city hall to discuss the HSAD on Monday Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. The deadline to object to the assessment is Jan. 25 by 5 p.m.