Dominion Technical Consultant Robert Orndorff presented a proposed alternative route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) to the Pocahontas County Commission March 1. In his presentation he reminded those present that the pipeline route was an evolving process and the map of the alternate route would quite likely change.
It has changed.
Due to consternation attached to the idea of a pipeline passing by the entrance to Snowshoe Mountain Resort as well as in close proximity to the Linwood Daycare, and in an effort to accommodate residents as much as possible, Atlantic amended the route on Wednesday.
The amended route will go south after passing through Mingo Flats, thereby nullifying concerns about adverse effects to Linwood Daycare and the resort area.
The new route will be presented at Atlantic’s open house to be held in Mountain Lodge Ballroom at Snowshoe Thursday, March 10, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The open house is being held to present information to the public and to answer questions, especially from landowners whose property will be affected by this new route. Those landowners were immediately notified once the pipeline route was amended.
In addition, Atlantic worked with the U.S. Forest Service over several months and formally adopted the alternative route to avoid sensitive areas in the Monongahela and George Washington national forests.
According to Atlantic, finding a viable route through the national forests is an important milestone for the project and would allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to continue its environmental review.
The alternative route presented to the commission at its meeting last week was selected to avoid Cheat Mountain and Shenandoah Moun- tain because of certain species that inhabit those areas, as specifically requested by the Forest Service. The route will reduce total mileage in the national forests by more than one-third, from 28.8 miles to 18.5 miles.
The alternate route has increased the overall length of the proposed 550 mile project by about 30 miles.
The pipeline—owned by Dominion 45 percent, Duke Energy 40 percent, Piedmont Natural Gas 10 percent, and AGL Resources five percent—will transport as much as 1.5 bcfd southeast from Harrison County to Chesapeake, Virginia, and Robeson County, North Carolina.
Several concerns and questions have been raised with regard to this project.
Atlantic/Dominion provides information about this project through various formats – public meetings, websites, press releases and open houses.
The following questions have been raised in Pocahontas County and other areas along the proposed route:
How do you deal with the challenging topography and geology specifically karst topography?
Dominion has transmission pipelines in the Appalachian Mountains and is well accustomed to building and operating in rugged terrain. The U.S. Geological Survey says that karst topography occurs over about 40 percent of the land area located east of the Mississippi River. There are many hundreds – if not thousands – of miles of natural gas pipelines crossing areas of karst topography today. Dominion would take all due care and precautions in those locations just as we would across the rest of the route.
Why not just focus on renewable energy and conservation?
Dominion is moving ahead with renewable energy investments, including solar, wind and renewable biomass. Our offshore wind project in the Atlantic Ocean is one of the most advanced wind projects in the United States. Renewable energy is a growing and important alternative, but it cannot by itself produce enough elec- tricity to make up for so many coal-fired power stations expected to close, along with an increasing energy demand in the region.
Rather than build this pipeline, couldn’t you meet the energy needs through renewable energy such as wind and solar?
(This answer is from Resource Report 10, pages 10-3 and 104.)
Renewable energy sources are expected to play an increasingly prominent role in meeting U.S. energy demands in the coming years. Dominion Resources agrees. It owns and operates two wind farms, more than 344 megawatts of solar generating capacity in development, under construction or in operation across six states and is actively researching offshore wind capability off the coast of Virginia.
Significant long-term investment in new facilities would be necessary before renewable energy could potentially offset a substantial portion of the projected energy demand in Virginia and North Carolina.
If all of the natural gas that would flow through the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is used to generate electricity, the 1.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) would yield approximately 190,500 megawatt-hours per day (mwh/d) of electricity. The pipeline, once operational, would affect approximately 4,600 acres of land.
To generate that much electricity with wind turbines, utilities would need approximately 46,500 wind turbines on approximately 476,000 acres of land. To generate that much electricity with solar farms, utilities would need approximately 1.7 million acres of land dedicated to solar power generation.
Both of these would also require the construction of new electric transmission and distribution lines that could result in similar or greater impacts. For these reasons, renewable energy sources are not a reasonable alternative to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Would this project scar the land, devalue property, and disrupt the nature of our communities?
There are about two and a-half times as many miles of existing natural gas pipelines in both Virginia and North Carolina as there are miles of interstate highways. Because virtually all of the pipeline facilities are underground, most people never realize they are there. That would also be the case with the ACP. After construction, pipeline rights-of-way can be farmed and used for livestock grazing, recreation and many other activities.
Is it dangerous to live near a natural gas pipeline?
Natural gas pipelines have an excellent safety record. One safety incident is one too many in Dominion’s view, but the number of incidents nationally is very small given the more than 300,000 miles of natural gas pipelines in the country. Pipelines are the safest way to transport energy. Dominion is dedicated to building, monitoring and maintaining the ACP safely.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at jsgraham@poc ahontastimes.com