A controversial proposal to build a large-diameter natural gas pipeline through northern Pocahontas County has raised a number of questions about landowner rights and potential impact to the natural environment. Both long-established and newly formed organizations have mobilized to oppose the project, provide information and monitor the project applicant’s compliance with the law.
Four major U.S. energy companies, including Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources, plan to build the 550-mile, 42-inch pipeline from Harrison County to North Carolina, with a 20-inch extension line to Chesapeake, Virginia. The companies claim the pipeline, dubbed the Atlantic Coast pipeline, would help meet the growing energy needs of Virginia and North Carolina by providing direct access to natural gas being extracted from the Marcellus and Utica shale basins of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The project requires approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
On Friday, November 14th at 1 p.m., the Greenbrier River Watershed Association (GRWA) will conduct a community meeting to discuss the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline. The meeting will be held at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Science Center in Green Bank. Elise Keaton, GRWA Outreach and Education Coordinator, will present information on the proposed pipeline and discuss the FERC process that the energy companies must go through for approval. Lawyers from Appalachian Mountain Advocates will be present to answer questions that landowners may have regarding their property rights related to the proposed pipeline.
A new group has been formed to oppose construction of the pipeline through environmentally sensitive forests in Virginia and West Virginia. An October 25 press release from the group reads:
“The newly formed Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) is among the many regional organizations taking a stand in opposition to Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would cross the central Appalachian Mountain region, including some of the best remaining wild landscape in the eastern United States. The coalition will use a corps of volunteers to monitor the project not only from the ground, but also from the air with its Pipeline Air Force.”
DPMC has three aircraft and three pilots available to monitor pipeline construction – if it occurs – from the air. In addition to aerial surveillance, the DPMC plans to promote and support regional water quality monitoring groups to obtain water quality data in in the proposed pipeline corridor and its associated infrastructure, such as transport roads and staging areas.
DPMC’s press release continues:
“The DPMC is primarily concerned about the project’s impact on water resources in the 100-mile mountain-and-valley section of the proposed pipeline route that extends from Cheat Mountain in Randolph County, West Virginia to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Nelson County, Virginia. Because the proposed project is generally routed along the divide between major river basins, it will impact the upper reaches of multiple mountain headwater streams, many of which provide habitat for the region’s native brook trout and drinking water for downstream communities.”
Dominion Resources pre-filed with the FERC on October 31, asking the agency to begin the environmental review process of the proposed pipeline.
“This is the formal beginning of a comprehensive and detailed review process by the FERC and other agencies that will examine this project from every angle,” said Dominion Energy President Diane Leopold in a press release. “It is an open process with many opportunities for participation by the public.”
Dominion’s press release states that 40 federal, state and local regulatory agencies must approve the project before construction can begin.
Dominion plans to file a project application with FERC in the summer of 2015. The company hopes to receive a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from FERC in the summer of 2016 and begin construction in 2017. If that timeline is achieved, the pipeline could be put into service in late 2018.
The FERC is currently accepting public comments on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Comment letters can be mailed to: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20426. Letters should contain the name of the project – Atlantic Coast Pipeline – and the docket number, PF-15-6, in order to become part of the FERC record. Comments can also be submitted at the FERC website at www.ferc.gov/help/how-to/ecomment.asp.
See next week’s edition of The Pocahontas Times for an interview with DPMC Coordinator Rick Webb. For more information on GRWA’s meeting in Green Bank, contact Elise Keaton at 304-647-4792.