Alternate pipeline route passes Marlinton, Edray, Slaty Fork

A map shows the primary and alternate routes of a proposed 42-inch natural gas pipeline through Pocahontas County. The newly disclosed alternate route passes close to Marlinton, Edray and Slaty Fork. Towns and route labels added by The Pocahontas Times. Atlantic Coast Pipeline/Dominion Transmission map.
A map shows the primary and alternate routes of a proposed 42-inch natural gas pipeline through Pocahontas County. The newly disclosed alternate route passes close to Marlinton, Edray and Slaty Fork. Towns and route labels added by The Pocahontas Times. Atlantic Coast Pipeline/Dominion Transmission map.

In a report submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP), and Dominion Transmission, Inc. (Dominion) revealed an alternate route for the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline that runs through the center of Pocahontas County and near the communities of Marlinton, Edray and Slaty Fork.

As part of the FERC pre-filing process for interstate natural gas pipeline projects, ACP/Dominion must file 12 resource reports covering specific aspects of the project. Dominion filed preliminary drafts of two of the reports to the FERC on Friday: the “RR1 – General Project Description” and “RR10 – “Alternate Routes” reports.

The Alternate Routes Report includes a map with both Dominion’s preferred primary route (“eastern route”) and an alternate route (“western route”). The primary route, as previously reported, enters Pocahontas County near Cheat Bridge and traverses the county from west to east, mostly across rugged terrain north of U.S. Route 250. Although submitted on a large-scale map lacking topographic details, some specifics of the alternate route can be discerned.

The newly disclosed western route enters Pocahontas County on Gauley Mountain north of Slaty Fork, continues southeast past Slaty Fork, generally follows U.S. Route 219 as far as Marlinton, then runs in a more southerly course across Buckley Mountain, Middle Mountain and Meadow Creek Mountain, exiting West Virginia to the southwest of Lake Moomaw (see map accompanying article).

In the report, ACP/Dominion describes the alternate route as follows:

“The western route alternative, including the laterals, measures approximately 607.2 miles in length, of which 16.8 miles is adjacent to existing linear corridor facilities. The route crosses 68.4 miles of federal lands, including lands managed by the USFS [U.S. Forest Service], FWS [Fish and Wildlife Service], U.S. Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and NPS [National Park System]. Like the eastern route alternative, it crosses both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail on federal lands. It crosses 7.0 miles of state lands, 18.3 miles of conservation easements, 414.7 miles of forested lands, 45.7 miles of wetland, and 425 perennial waterbodies. It also crosses 10.4 miles of areas identified as historic properties, historic landscapes, or historic landmarks, mostly Civil War battlefields.”

ACP/Dominion states its preference for the primary, eastern route.

“The western alternative crosses 4.2 more miles of state land and 6.1 more miles of conservation easements than the eastern alternative. The western alternative crosses 15.0 miles less of wetland and 3.1 miles less of historic places, but 85.9 more miles of forested land and 63 more perennial waterbodies than the eastern route. For
these reasons, Atlantic identified the eastern route as the preferred alternative for the [Atlantic Coast pipeline].”

Two ACP/Dominion competitors have proposed pipelines through West Virginia which avoid national forests in the Allegheny Highlands. EQT Corporation and NextEra Energy, Inc., have proposed construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which runs from north to south through West Virginia, generally parallels West Virginia ridgelines, rather than crossing them, and does not cross broad swaths of protected forests. Williams Companies, Inc., has proposed the Appalachian Connector project, which follows a similar path and would connect to an existing Transco pipeline in southern Virginia. Both proposals, like ACP/Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline, have the purpose to transport massive quantities of natural gas from production fields in the Marcellus shale region to markets in the Eastern U.S.

Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC), one of several groups opposing pipeline construction across the Allegheny Highlands, has responded to the draft reports. In a December 14 email, DPMC Coordinator Rick Webb wrote that ACP/Dominion has failed to consider pipeline routes that avoid broad stretches of national forest in the Allegheny Highlands, as the company’s competitors have done.

“This [alternate] route would still cross the Allegheny Highlands,” Webb wrote in an email. “Dominion also describes variations of the general central Allegheny Highlands route. What Dominion does not consider is a separate southern route, which, like the Mountain Valley and Appalachian Connector, would be south of both the Allegheny Highlands and the Monongahela National Forest, with much less national forest impact than the current proposed route. This is a significant omission.”

In the draft report to FERC, ACP/Dominion claims that the Mountain Valley Pipeline and other pipeline proposals, that avoid the national forests of the Allegheny Highlands, are not viable alternatives.

“To meet the same purpose and need as the [Atlantic Coast pipeline], the proposed Mountain Valley project would need to be expanded to provide sufficient capacity for an additional 1.5 bcf/d [billion cubic feet per day] of natural gas and to reach the same delivery points in southern Virginia and North Carolina. Similar to the existing Transco system, and depending on the routes selected, the additional pipeline construction could range from 200 to 300 miles in length. Consequently, the environmental impacts associated with system expansion and new pipeline construction would likely be similar to or greater than those of the [Atlantic Coast pipeline], and these theoretical project modifications would provide no environmental advantage over the [Atlantic Coast pipeline]. For this reason, and the fact that the project as proposed does not meet the [Atlantic Coast pipeline’s] purpose and need, the Mountain Valley Pipeline is not considered a viable system alternative.”

In previous interviews, Dominion officials have stated that construction of the pipeline to avoid the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests would increase the overall pipeline length and create more environmental damage.

Both the RR1 and RR 10 preliminary draft reports can be found by visiting the FERC website at elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/search/fercgensearch.asp and entering PF15-6 in the docket number field.

The U.S. Forest Service is inviting comments on Dominion’s application to survey the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline route through the George Washington National Forest. Comments will be accepted through January 9. More information can be found at: www.fs.usda.gov/detail/gwj/landmanagement/projects/?cid=stelprd3824603

The comment period for Dominion’s application to survey the pipeline route through the Monongahela National Forest is expected to be announced in January.

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