Pipeline forum draws hundreds in Upshur County

BUCKHANNON, W. Va. —¬†Construction is not scheduled to begin until at least 2017, but work is underway on the proposed 550-mile pipeline that will carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily from Harrison County to Robeson County, N.C.

Before Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources can begin building, they must obtain approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Part of this process is presenting public comments both for and against the project. Dominion is hosting open house meetings for residents along the path of the pipeline, especially landowners, to come meet with administration and employees working in each aspect of the project from land rights to engineering.

The first was held Wednesday night at West Virginia Wesleyan College, with hundreds attending throughout the night.

“It gives residents, elected officials, general public the opportunity to come find out what we’re doing, what we plan on doing and ask questions of industry experts,” said Bob Orndorff, managing director of state and local government affairs for Dominion. “We encourage dialogue that will continue throughout the evening.”

Among those on hand to answer questions was Brittany Moody, the project’s pipeline engineering director. She explained the proposed route for the pipeline is subject to change as results arrive from the preliminary survey.

“We’ll tweak it as we need to, avoiding conservation easements, issues in national forests, property owners, topography, making sure we’re following ridgelines,” she said.

Officials heard safety concerns about the 42-inch pipe, the largest constructed in West Virginia.

“There are 70-inch pipelines in Alaska. A 42-inch pipeline is large but it’s not the largest that’s ever been built,” Orndorff said. “It has been done before. They have been built. They have been built in the Rocky Mountains.”

Orndorff also wanted to dispel rumors of compressors stations every 10 miles along the proposed route and how many above-ground facilities will be required.

“What we’ve said and what we’re stating is three compressor stations. One in Lewis County, one in Virginia and one in North Carolina,” he said. “The above-ground structures depend on the class of the pipeline and we have yet to determine that.”

A group of people stood outside and handed out literature compiled by the Greenbrier River Watershed Association and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Among them was Tim Higgins, a resident of Upshur County and a member of the Surface Owners Rights Organization. His concerns included the landowner rights, the environmental impact of the pipeline proposed to run through two national forests and several major streams and a permit to export liquefied natural gas.

“[Dominion] has applied for an export permit where they say this [pipeline] is for domestic use. Why do they need an export permit?” he asked.

The company did apply for and receive an export permit from the DOE – Office of Fossil Energy in 2013 for a facility off the coast of Lusby, Maryland, which is located roughly 212 miles from the end of a proposed lateral pipeline near Chesapeake, Virginia that branches off the main pipeline. In the approval document, it stated “the opponents of the DCP Application have not demonstrated that the requested authorization will be inconsistent with the public interest and finds that the exports proposed in this Application are likely to yield net economic benefits to the United States.”

Energy companies are entertaining the idea of exporting natural gas from the United States to other markets where the demand and price is higher, like China.

In 2012, a study commissioned by the DOE conducted by NERA Economic Consulting found increased natural gas exports lead to increased natural gas prices, which added an increase to electricity bills depending on the different export levels.

A study conducted by Chmura Economics and Analytics determined the project will lead to “More stable electricity and home heating prices,” claiming “gas prices spiked more than 20-fold on the coldest days in the region due to pipeline constraints.”

Dominion has stated the pipeline is for domestic use only with no intention of exports from this project currently.

Another open house for the ACP is slated for Sept. 24 at the Durbin Volunteer Fire Department from 5 to 6:30 p.m. for landowners within the proposed study corridor and from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for landowners and the general public.

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