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Several months ago, officials from Dayton, Ranchester and Sheridan County School District 1 took steps to bring a cheaper energy option to the Tongue River Valley.
They’ve formed a joint powers board and applied for grant and loan funding from the State Loan and Investment Board.
Bringing natural gas to the valley will provide a cheaper heating option than propane or electric. Many area residents felt the sting of propane prices this year, as prices jumped 55 percent in January.
There will be a cost to customers looking to make the switch, but the return on their investment will likely be swift. To convert each household to natural gas will likely cost between $500 and $1,500 apiece. Natural gas runs about one-third the cost of electric heat and propane costs about 2.5 times what natural gas does.
Support for the project has been pouring in. The joint powers board sent out surveys to measure local interest. Of the 240 responses received, 227 were in favor of the project.
In addition, the Sheridan County commissioners have voiced support and the Wyoming Legislature passed a bill that will allow municipalities to receive state funding for such projects.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office has also contacted the board about potential loan options. The Wyoming Pipeline Authority has expressed interest in sharing the ownership of the pipeline.
Hands have been extended as well by SourceGas, Montana-Dakota Utilities and Pipeline Solutions Inc.
The interest isn’t surprising. The pipeline will likely prove profitable and a growing asset to the areas around Dayton and Ranchester. It would allow development to occur in a more affordable manner and save the school district hundreds of dollars in energy costs.
Those involved in moving this project forward have the right vision in mind and are on the right path to making it happen. So far, little controversy or opposition exists for the project that has been discussed openly and with consideration for public input from the beginning. The public process seems to be working seamlessly. Keep at it.