With gas prices rising and alternate energy sources becoming all the rage, New Canaan is entertaining the possibility of introducing natural gas to town.

Representatives from Yankee Gas made presentations to both the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen last week about utilizing the Tennessee Gas Pipeline for natural gas conversion.

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline, a major natural gas line that stretches from Canada to Mexico, cuts directly through Waveny Park, which makes the natural gas conversion a bit easier here in New Canaan. Yankee Gas has proposed to tap into the sources through a gate station that can connect the gas pipeline to the necessary areas in town.

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At the Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectman Jeb Walker said this discussion came out of a simple conversation more than four years ago with Yankee Gas when the company was doing security work on the Tennessee line. Fire Marshal Fred Baker came on board to help begin these preliminary talks.

"We are looking to get natural gas into the town of New Canaan," Baker said. "This is the initial operation that needs to be done to get this gate station in town."

Yankee Gas describes this as a Phase I of sorts for the project.

"This is really to introduce and alternate fuel source into New Canaan," Brenda Mead, a Yankee Gas representative, said.

Mead described the benefits of natural gas over other energy sources like oil, propane and electricity. For starters, she explained that the source of natural gas is mostly all from the United States and North America, which makes it less susceptible to impact from foreign markets.

"There are fewer operating and maintenance issues with natural gas," Mead added. "Converting to natural gas is cost-effective and easy. It is good for the environment and there is no impact to the air quality. So therefore it lowers your carbon footprint."

She went as far as to say that gas prices in town would be lower for more than 20 years with more natural gas in New Canaan.

If the plan moves forward, the gate station would be placed in Waveny Park near the high school fields. That station in turn would connect the pipeline to New Canaan High School, Saxe Middle School, South Elementary School, Waveny Care Center and the New Canaan YMCA.

"The gate station is actually just a place where we reduce the gas, which then leaves the gate station to travel through the infrastructure," Mead said. "We would need to install approximately a little more than 6,000 feet of gas main in order to serve the five acre sites that we talked about earlier."

Selectman Rob Mallozzi brought up the issue of safety and security with the pipeline at the meeting last Tuesday. Citing explosions with natural gas lines in California and other areas around the country, he stressed that he wanted insurance from the Tennessee Gas company, the company that actually provides the gas, about how safe those pipes really are since they are in close proximity to many of the schools in the area.

"Until we have insurances of the quality of the piping and the safety of the structure I think that is tantamount to any further discussion of your folks tapping into their product for obvious reasons," Mallozzi said.

Baker and the Yankee Gas representatives said they are placing the safety of the pipeline as a top concern when considering this initiative.

As far as next steps, Yankee Gas will continue meeting and having discussions with the various town bodies. If agreements are made and voted on to move forward, the gate station construction would take between six to eight months before gas delivery begins. They next meet with Planning and Zoning April 26 and the Board of Education April 25 for continued discussion.