Dominion proposes new pipeline

Published 5:37 pm Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The blue line running north-to-south shows the location of the main natural gas pipeline in Northampton County. The aqua-colored line at the top center of the map shows a lateral extension planned to run west to east in Virginia across Southampton County and the City of Suffolk before ending in Chesapeake. Map courtesy of Dominion

The blue line running north-to-south shows the location of the main natural gas pipeline in Northampton County. The aqua-colored line at the top center of the map shows a lateral extension planned to run west to east in Virginia across Southampton County and the City of Suffolk before ending in Chesapeake. Map courtesy of Dominion

Dominion Power, along with three other major energy companies, is moving forward with a plan to construct a new natural gas pipeline across several states.

If approved by federal and state regulators, the pipeline, projected with a 1.5 billion cubic feet per day capacity, will cross into North Carolina near Pleasant Hill in Northampton County and proceed southward along a route just east of US 301. It will cross into Halifax County through the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge, downstream from Weldon.

The 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) will originate in Harrison County, West Virginia (tapping into the Utica and Marcellus shale basins in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania) and end in Lumberton, NC. In North Carolina, the pipeline will be constructed parallel to I-95 and US 301.

A lateral extension is planned from the Virginia-North Carolina border, near Pleasant Hill, eastward across Southampton County and the City of Suffolk before ending in Chesapeake.

ACP is a $4.5 billion joint venture between Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and AGL Resources (Atlanta Gas & Light) and is expected to begin delivering natural gas to customers in late 2018. AGL Resources is the parent company of Virginia Natural Gas.

In its formal announcement on Sept. 2, Dominion said increasing the availability of natural gas supplies in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina is important to the economy and environment of the region. It can mean more jobs, lower prices to heat and power homes and businesses, and cleaner air.

At their meeting Wednesday morning in Jackson, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners was briefed on the pipeline by Michael A. Thompson, Manager of State and Local Affairs for Dominion North Carolina Power. Thompson called the ACP project, “one of the biggest we (Dominion) have ever undertaken.”

“This pipeline will provide an improved supply of natural gas for utilities looking to meet the new EPA clean air regulations by using natural gas to generate electricity rather than other fuel sources,” Thompson said. “We also have noted that local distribution companies are searching for new, less expensive supplies of natural gas for its residential and commercial customers. This pipeline can provide that, as well as provide a reliable source of natural gas for local industries, and even new ones, to expand their operations.”

Thompson noted that due to the new EPA regulations, Dominion Resources was forced to close six coal-fired power plants. Among their options to replace coal as the power source to generate electricity is natural gas.

“We are energy starved here in eastern North Carolina….by that I mean less than two percent of the fuel used for the generation of electricity in North Carolina comes from North Carolina,” he stressed. “There’s no oil or gas drilling here; there’s no coal mines here.”

While the proposed route of the pipeline only covers nine miles of Northampton County real estate, one of the three compressor stations that will dot the landscape along its entire 550-mile route will be built near Pleasant Hill. The other two are planned in West Virginia (at the start of the pipeline) and in central Virginia (Buckingham County).

“That means the construction of a compressor station….taxable property here in Northampton County,” Thompson noted.

“We are excited that this proposed project may be coming through our county,” said Northampton Commission Chairman Robert Carter. “We’re excited two-fold….the potential for economic development and for the tax revenue.”

Thompson asked the Commissioners if they would consider writing a letter to the Federal Regulatory Commission in support of the project. That request was granted by a 5-0 vote of the board.

Tonya Evans, representing Duke Energy, and Timothy Greenhouse of Piedmont Natural Gas joined Thompson at the Northampton Commissioners meeting. Both said their respective companies are in full support of Dominion’s efforts to build the pipeline.

“This project represents a significant opportunity for Duke Energy and for the communities here in your county,” noted Evans. “For us, it provides a critical source of natural gas for our power plants. We have closed about half of our coal-fired power plants in anticipation of building five news ones, and this pipeline provides us with the fuel that we will need for those plants.

“It’s great news for you because this pipeline will provide very critical infrastructure through NorthamptonCounty and provide significant economic development opportunities for you through new businesses, new jobs and new tax revenue,” Evans added.

Greenhouse is no stranger to the local area. He formally worked the Roanoke Rapids, Weldon, Ahoskie district while formerly employed with North Carolina Natural Gas.

“Piedmont Natural Gas has been around for over 60 years and we believe in our commitment to help to build and strengthen the local counties/communities where we live and work,” Greenhouse stated. “This is a vital project for us as well as it serves as a great economic stimulus for all of eastern North Carolina.”

The pipeline has the potential to bring hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity to North Carolina.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one of the largest projects of its type in the nation and represents a significant investment in our state,” said North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. “This project will drive economic growth and create much-needed jobs for eastern North Carolina. In addition, this new interstate natural gas pipeline will provide our entire state with new access to abundant, clean, reliable and competitively priced supplies of natural gas.”

Dominion officials say the joint project helps local economies take another step forward by bringing the benefits of additional supplies of clean, low-priced domestic natural gas to homes, businesses, manufacturers and power generators.

“The newfound abundance of domestic supplies has made it a low-cost energy source that is decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign imports. When burned, natural gas produces significantly lower emissions than coal, including just half the carbon,” Dominion officials said in a statement released Sept. 2.

Dominion has notified landowners along a 400-foot wide study corridor. Preliminary survey work and route planning have been under way since May and could be completed by year-end.

Meanwhile, Dominion officials are progressing toward a final recommended route. At Tuesday’s meeting in Jackson, Thompson announced that 94 percent of affected landowners (48 parcels) in Northampton County have given the company permission to survey. Across the entire project, 70 percent of landowners have agreed, to date, to allow a survey of their property where the proposed pipeline may cross.

Crews are surveying and obtaining information from affected landowners along the way to determine the best route with least impacts to the environment, historic and cultural resources.

Dominion has scheduled several upcoming informational sessions with landowners as well as the general public. Locally, a session is planned for Tuesday, Sept. 23 at The Centre at Halifax Community College, 100 College Drive, in Weldon. There, project officials will meet with landowners within the proposed study corridor from 5-6:30 p.m. The general public is invited to come in from 6:30-8 p.m. for their portion of the informational session.

The project must obtain approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which will coordinate with other federal and state agencies to thoroughly address land, air, water, noise, species, economic impacts and other issues.

The pipeline would be designed, constructed, operated and maintained in accordance with FERC and U.S. Department of Transportation standards, and all other applicable regulations, standards and guidelines for safety.

All federal, state and local permits and right-of-way access will be obtained prior to starting pipeline construction.

Upon approval by the FERC, the joint venture would anticipate project construction in 2017 and 2018.

In West Virginia and Virginia, the pipe would be 42 inches in diameter; in North Carolina, 36 inches. The Hampton Roads pipeline would be 20 inches in diameter.

The range of normal operating pressure on the pipeline would be from 750 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) to 1,440 psig, its Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure. The pipeline would be designed with redundant safety systems to ensure this maximum pressure is not exceeded.

The project is expected to create approximately 738 jobs each year in North Carolina during the construction phase, which will have an economic impact of $680 million. The pipeline is also expected to create 52 permanent jobs.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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