City Utilities, in the midst of an extensive — and expensive — replacement of Springfield’s natural gas pipelines, will get a $10 million federal grant to supplement ongoing work.
April 13, CU and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and the Hazardous Materials Safety Administration held a joint press conference announcing the investment in Springfield’s pipeline infrastructure.
“This grant is going to help City Utilities continue to make improvements to revitalize the necessary infrastructure in the northwest quadrant of the city,” Springfield Mayor Ken McClure said. “We are so grateful and it could not come at a better time as we focus on savings, we focus on infrastructure and a strong utility environment.”
The $10 million will be allotted to replace approximately 11.7 miles of gas main and associated services in CU’s Zone 1 section of the city, beginning in the last quarter of 2023. Zone 1 primarily encompasses northwest and north central Springfield.
“I’m especially pleased to see this focusing on Zone 1,” McClure said. “Certainly the area of prime need where this will be beneficial.”
Grant to supplement replacement of aging, “legacy” pipeline
Prior to receiving the grant, CU has already begun the process of replacing “legacy” natural gas pipelines across the city, spending approximately $6.5 million a year, according to CU President Gary Gibson.
The term “legacy” refers to the aging pipelines in need of replacement that are no longer manufactured.
“It’s important that we replace our infrastructure for the health of the community,” Gibson said. “But by having a grant like this, it helps supplement our budgeting and keeps costs low for all customers.”
In addition to allowing CU to make these necessary infrastructure improvements without increasing costs to natural gas consumers, the pipeline replacements will increase safety and reliability, reduce methane gas emissions and create union and non-union jobs in Springfield.
Springfield among first batch of recipients to receive funding
While other municipalities will have opportunities over the next five-plus years to receive grants for their own pipeline infrastructure, Springfield’s application stood out in the first round of selections.
President Joe Biden’s “Building a Better America” infrastructure plan allocated nearly $1 billion for the modernization of municipality and community-owned high-risk pipelines through the Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernization grant program.
Springfield was one of the first 37 cities to be awarded funding.
“That’s huge,” said Renee Lani, assistant general counsel for the American Public Gas Association. “APGA, as with all public assets, we know that the infrastructure that City Utilities owns, and the workforce that operates it is critical to ensuring that your customers get affordable, reliable and efficient energy.
“And we also believe that investing in modernizing the gas utility infrastructure is a continued investment. It’s an investment in safety, it’s an investment in the environment, and energy reliability and in jobs in Springfield and similar communities.”
Linda Daugherty, a deputy associate administrator for the Office of Pipeline Safety in the U.S. Department of Transportation said that the application Springfield submitted was “superior” in demonstrating the need in the community and how the funding will be used.
Gibson praised staff at CU, from the engineers to accountants to construction workers, for analyzing the data and doing an integrity management assessment to determine the most important natural gas pipes in need of replacement in “underserved, economically disadvantaged areas.”
“Today, we celebrate the opportunity to further invest in the safety, the reliability, and resiliency of our natural gas system,” Gibson said.