July 31, 2020 10:22:35 AM
Garrick Hodge - [email protected]
Representatives from Mississippi State University, the Mississippi Public Service Commission and Atmos Energy gathered Thursday to announce a nearly $500,000 expansion of natural gas service south of Starkville.
The project is part of Atmos Energy's rural expansion program and will benefit the Mississippi State Horse Park and 50 current Oktibbeha County residences, plus an additional 200 planned homes. The horse park is a multi-use facility that supports MSU, Oktibbeha County, and Starkville.
Since the rural expansion program's inception in 2018, Atmos Energy has completed 54 projects in 28 communities with a purpose of providing natural gas service to residents that do not have access.
"This project is not only going to bring tremendous benefit to taxpayers here at the horse park because of the savings that will come out of the taxpayers' pocket, but we're also going to bring natural gas service availability to 250 rural homes along the way," Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley said. "People in rural Mississippi deserve to have the same exact choices for energy and utilities as someone living in downtown Jackson."
According to Atmos Energy Vice President of Rates and Regulatory Mathew Davidson, a nearly two-mile pipeline will be constructed running from South Montgomery to right past the horse park.
"Mississippi State has been a long time customer of ours, and we've grown in Starkville as the university has," Davidson said. "They've wanted gas out here for about 10 years, so it's been a long time. But we now have the opportunity to extend gas here and for some future residences in the area."
Sixteen low-intensity gas radiant heaters will be used at the horse park, which MSU President Mark Keenum said will lower energy costs by 50 percent. Because of the savings accumulated from switching to natural gas, Keenum estimated MSU could pay off the cost of the heaters within five years.
"The economic benefits will be way more than what we put in over a long period of time," Keenum said. "I'm very excited."
The 16 heaters for the horse park are expected to be operational by November.
"We're very excited about Atmos Energy and the expansion and the opportunity to have plain, safe, efficient and affordable energy at the horse park," said Horse Park Director and Manager Bricklee Miller, who also represents District 4 on the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors. "We've been interested in expansion of natural gas for several years, and we're very grateful."
The service will also be expanded to a select number of homes within the district.
"This program has two goals," Davidson said. "One, to encourage economic development in areas that need it. Second, to provide the opportunity for customers to lower energy bills through increased access to natural gas."
Atmos Energy, headquartered in Dallas, is the country's largest, fully-regulated, natural-gas-only distributor, serving more than 3 million natural gas distribution customers in more than 1,400 communities in eight states. Atmos also manages company-owned natural gas pipeline and storage assets, including one of the largest intrastate natural gas pipeline systems in Texas.