Elizabeth Buteau, 11, from Nelson County, was among those who traveled to Richmond to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
uating the project’s adverse effects and weighing whether they can be avoided, reduced or mitigated. The EIS will include consultation with a variety of state and federal agencies. “The commission will then go to its economic staff and look at the economics of the project — markets, rates, tariffs — and decide whether in the end this project has public benefit,” Friedman says. If FERC concludes the answer is yes, the pipeline will get a green light to move forward with construction, along with the use of eminent domain, if necessary. EQT hopes to have that certificate in hand by fall 2016, with construction to follow soon and transmission beginning by the fourth quarter of 2018. Potential customers With that process in mind, what are the pipelines’ potential customers saying? Roanoke Gas President and CEO John D’Orazio says he’s had “very brief discussions” with offi12
cials from both the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Appalachian Connector. He’s waiting for more details to emerge but says Roanoke Gas would be interested in additional sources to reinforce its existing supply, currently fed by the Columbia Transmission and East Tennessee transmission lines. “Right now we’re in a wait-andsee mode to see exactly what FERC approves,” D’Orazio says. “Once we know the route, we can run economic models. [Even if] it does make economic sense for us and our customers, but we don’t know whether these lines will interconnect with existing lines we’re already tied into.” Atmos Energy’s 24,000 Virginia customers also are supplied by the East Tennessee line, but Atmos is larger than Roanoke Gas, selling natural gas in eight states, mostly in the Southeast. It’s taking an even more cautious stance than Roanoke Gas. “We’ve looked at the Mountain Valley project, but as of right now
we’re not involved,” says Mike Ellis, vice president of operations for Atmos’ territories in Tennessee and Virginia. “These pipeline contracts, when they offer them to a distribution company like us or Roanoke Gas, you’ve got to sign up for longterm capacity. It’s a financial decision, obviously. We both know these pipelines are headed toward serving large power projects. We don’t have any kind of need for any capacity like that.” Depending on routing, a natural-gas transmission line may help expand gas service in localities that don’t currently have it. In Roanoke Gas’ coverage area, the main locality that stands to benefit is Franklin County. Franklin officials have included water lines and natural-gas service on their economic development wish list for decades. The county joined the Western Virginia Water Authority in 2009 and now is seeing development of water lines from Roanoke toward Rocky Mount and from Bedford County to the Smith Mountain Lake area. The Mountain Valley Pipeline’s proposed route could well create a natural-gas connection to be managed by Roanoke Gas, whose service area includes the county. “For many years, extension of natural gas into Franklin County has been a top priority,” says Michael Burnette, Franklin’s director of economic development. “Natural gas has become one of the major needs for businesses looking at any area, or even to expand within an area. We find that prospects looking at communities throughout Virginia are asking first and foremost, ‘Do you have natural gas?’ [To] all of those projects, we have to say, ‘No, we don’t,’ and we get cut out of the process.” Previous discussions have focused on extending the Roanoke Gas line south from Clearbrook, but that approach has proved cost-prohibitive, Burnette says. The Mountain Valley Pipeline proposal could provide a much more affordable opAP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown