Log In


Reset Password
  • MENU
    Local News
    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Norwich Public Utilities to receive $10M federal gas line replacement grant

    Participants at a news conference Wednesday, April 12, 2023 gather around a Norwich Public Utilities gas line construction and repair truck after an announcement that the utility will receive a $10 million federal grant to replace century-old gas lines in Norwich. Claire Bessette/The Day
    Buy Photo Reprints

    Norwich ― President Biden had just signed the massive federal infrastructure law in November 2021, when officials from Norwich Public Utilities knocked on U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney’s door to ask how to apply for funds to replace the city’s century-old natural gas lines.

    “The ink was barely dry on the law,” Courtney said Wednesday at a news conference to announce that NPU was among 37 inaugural recipients of the highly competitive Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration grants. The funds go to municipally-owned utilities to replace aged and leaking gas lines.

    NPU will receive the maximum award of $10 million to replace an estimated 4.7 miles of cast iron, wrought iron or bare steel pipes beneath city streets. Work will begin as soon as the grant money is released to NPU.

    Courtney praised NPU for recognizing that the $350 billion federal infrastructure law covered more than roads, bridges, rail and airports, although the grants are awarded through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

    Courtney compared the stiff competition and NPU’s success to the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team’s recent run through the NCAA tournament to capture the national championship.

    NPU General Manager Chris LaRose credited NPU staff for putting together the winning application. With no grant limit announced, NPU applied for the more than $20 million that would be needed to replace all nine miles of aged gas lines. The $10 million will cover half the total, with that work to be done in two to three years.

    LaRose said NPU will apply again during the next grant round to cover the rest of the cost.

    “We have a great application that just needs to be modified, basically which streets we’re going to do,” LaRose said.

    The first work with the $10 million announced Wednesday will be done along the southern portion of North Main Street and in the area of Norwich Free Academy, followed by the northern portion of North Main Street and the Asylum Street area.

    LaRose said the project would be put out to bid as soon as the utility learns the logistical process for receiving the funds. NPU natural gas crews will do the pipeline replacement, but the utility will seek bids for related trades work, including repaving, lawn restoration and other work.

    Labor leaders, unionized NPU workers and members of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 777 were among the more than 40 people who attended Wednesday’s news conference in the plaza outside City Hall. Participants posed in front of a large NPU gas underground construction truck used to construct and repair underground gas lines.

    Speakers stressed the safety and environmental benefits of replacing century-old gas lines with new high-density polyethylene gas mains. Leaks from old pipes present safety hazards and release methane gas, an aggressive contributor to global warming, officials said.

    LaRose said the grant also will help reduce or stabilize NPU gas rates for customers. The federal grant does not require local matching funds.

    “We see this as continuing to lower the cost to gas customers,” LaRose said. “It’s all based on cost of service. So, this will have an impact of either lowering or preventing future rate increases.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.