OCEAN PINES – In the era of political pressure coming to bear with relative ease, the notion of what can and can’t be done is more tied to will than ever before, or at least that’s what a loose configuration of Ocean Pines members and residents are hoping as they begin to try and pressure the local politicians and gas company into changing the status quo.
When Eastern Shore Gas (ESG) won the contract for putting propane lines throughout Ocean Pines in the early 1990s it was with the understanding that propane was just the first step and that eventually it would give way to natural gas.
In fact Dick Brady, who was part of the original negotiation team, said that the pitch made by ESG president Steve Ashcraft and sealed the deal was that signing the contract would be a gateway to eventually getting natural gas.
“It was the whole reason we made the deal,” Brady said. “Absolutely.”
While there’s never been a doubt that natural gas is a desirable and legitimate alternative and the 20 year long contract will expire in 2013, a group of residents has begun to try to speed along the process of getting natural gas as an option.
Spearheaded by Bud Shea, the group has begun putting together a petition to try an affect a change, and as propane prices continue to significantly outpace natural gas prices, they believe the time is ripe to get things moving. They’ve collected a significant number of signatures by going door-to-door throughout their respective neighborhoods
Shea said he recently contacted Chesapeake Utilities, the local natural gas purveyor, about the possibility of that company bringing service to the area and that they would be amenable to the notion if they could be assured at least 2,000 households.
Depending upon a person’s appliance configuration, there could be some costs involved with converting from propane to natural gas but the process has varying degrees of difficulty. Converting hot water heaters are likely to present the biggest expense for people interested in making the switch. Some hot water heaters can not be converted and might have to be switched out for new ones.
Shea said that even given the potential cost, the long term savings are significant enough that many if not more people will find conversion costs well within the acceptable limits of upfront expense.
Since the group members have limited time and ability to go house to house to collect the requisite signature, Shea has established an e-mail address where Ocean Pines residents who’d be willing to switch to natural gas can sign an electronic petition.
The way it works is members can send Shea an e-mail at email@example.com that contains their physical address and expresses a willingness to switch to natural gas. He and the other members of the group will keep interested parties up to date as the lobbying efforts progress.