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ion and Duke Energy generate and sell electricity. Because of federal clean air regulations and market economics, Dominion and Duke are closing coal-fired power plants and moving to build natural gas-powered operations. “We still have the obligation to keep the lights on 24/7,” says Jim Norvelle, communications director for Dominion Energy, the arm of Dominion that focuses on natural gas infrastructure. “Natural gas is the primary choice. It’s abundant, inexpensive and has half the carbon output of coal.” The preferred route for the Atlantic Coast pipeline runs well north of the Roanoke Valley, crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains in Augusta County, but the proposal does include alternatives that pass closer. Williams Partners LP, on the other hand, isn’t a power provider but a 100-year-old pipeline infrastructure company that touches about 20 percent of the country’s natural-gas supply. The company operates the Transco interstate pipeline system,

which delivers about 10 percent of the nation’s natural gas and has been operating in Virginia since the 1950s. The Transco line includes about 850 miles of pipe in Virginia and delivers about one-quarter of the natural gas consumed in the state. The Appalachian Connector would link natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica formations with the Transco line, further reinforcing its supply lines. Williams spokesman Christopher Stockton says the company is only in “the very preliminary stages of planning this project” and still is evaluating customer demand and a potential route. The Appalachian Connector is being designed to move up to 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day into the Transco pipeline by late 2018, Stockton says. The Mountain Valley Pipeline has attracted the most attention from Roanoke-area media and opponents, due to its timing and route. It also would connect to the Transco pipeline at the Pittsylvania County station. Until last year, EQT had operated a distribution company similar to Roanoke Gas, but it sold the company to focus on drilling for and moving gas. EQT communications director Natalie Cox says the company is evaluating demand from consumers and manufacturers to determine where distribution points might be needed. “The rationale for the Mountain Valley Pipeline is matching the prolific supply of natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica [shale formations] with the incredibly increasing growing demand in the mid-Atlantic and Southeastern region of the U.S.,” Cox says. “Population growth and conversion of coal-gen power plants to natural gas is growing demand like crazy.” Opposing views Opponents at the local and regional level raise many arguments. They say the pipeline will scar the mountains, destroy viewsheds valuable to the tourism industry, boost

the potential for environmental disaster and usurp the property rights of landowners along the way. The pipeline companies don’t technically take the land, but they do require easements that stretch 150 feet wide for surveying and ultimately 75 feet for the pipeline itself. Most easements are privately negotiated with landowners, but if FERC approves the pipeline, the companies may use eminent domain, which allows them to buy easements, regardless of landowners’ wishes, at a price set by a judge. A variety of local opposition groups, as well as the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, the Sierra Club and the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition, spoke out against the Mountain Valley Pipeline at a news conference preceding an alternative open house that competed against EQT’s. In her opening statement, Roanoke resident Getra Hanes Selph expressed concerns over the pipeline’s potential effects, including “property rights violations, property devaluation, impacts to tourism and agricultural-based economics, public safety and environmental damage along the path of the pipeline to include contamination of local water supplies.” Others worried about climate change and contended that the gas moving through the pipeline won’t make it to domestic consumers but instead is bound for an export market. Cox dismissed the question of exports, saying the pipeline ends at the Pittsylvania County station: “Where it [the natural gas] goes from there, we don’t control, but the reason for this pipeline isn’t for export. It’s to supply the southeastern U.S.” FERC archaeologist Paul Friedman has overseen a variety of projects, including an Oregon pipeline that crossed the Rogue River and the Pacific Coast Trail. He says FERC staff will produce an environmental impact statement (EIS) evalROANOKE BUSINESS


Profile for Virginia Business

Roanoke Business- March 2015  

Roanoke Business- March 2015  

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