Dominion at Highland Board of Supervisors Meeting: Questions & Answers
At Tuesday night’s Highland County Board of Supervisors meeting, representatives from Dominion Resources, Inc. spoke about the company’s proposed interstate natural gas pipeline.
In his presentation, Vice President of Corporate Communications Chuck Wade said that they are still in the process of surveying land. However, Dominion will most likely make a decision on whether to move forward with the project within the next 60 days. In the meantime, the company is meeting with commissioners and supervisors in counties along the 550-mile route.
“We are here to work with everyone,” Wade said. “Now, that doesn’t mean that we’ll always give you the answer that you want to hear.”
Emmett Toms, Manager of Legislative State and Local Affairs, explained that the pipeline would be underground. He showed images of a similar completed right of way, where a pipeline was buried in a grassy clearing in a forested area.
“The pipeline itself within the county is about 26 miles across the county,” Toms said. “It’s covered in about 78 land owners in about 78 tracts of land, and we have gotten 54% of the landowners to agree to sign a survey permit.”
After the presentation, the Board of Supervisors had the opportunity to ask questions.
David Blanchard wondered what Dominion’s responsibility is if they mess up a landowner’s spring. Environmental Manager Bill Scarpinato said that they will be required to evaluate all the springs, wells, and water bodies within 200 feet of the proposed service area.
“We are going to first try to avoid all underground springs,” Scarpinato said. “Where we can’t, we’re going to have to study, evaluate, and negotiate with FERC and the landowners on how to properly proceed.”
Lee Blagg pointed out the fact that, based on the map, the pipeline would go over several mountain ranges. Blagg asked if the pipe is strictly underground, or whether there will be some points where they’ll have to go aboveground. In response, Emmett Toms said the pipeline would come aboveground where there are safety control valves, but it would be predominantly an underground pipeline.
Kevin Wagner asked about work crews, what size the crews would be and what kind of impact Dominion sees that having on roads and traffic. Brittany Moody of the Survey Department said that they would compose 12 construction spreads for pipeline construction, with 500-800 people per spread.
“For the large trucks that transport the pipe and the equipment, we have to get road permits,” Moody said. “Then at the end of the project, we have to upgrade all the roads from our damage.”
Both Wagner and County Attorney Melissa Dowd raised questions about providing resources to the county’s volunteer firefighters and rescue squads. Wagner wanted to know what requirements and preliminary work Dominion has in place. Dowd asked if it’s possible to negotiate to ensure some type of rescue squad capability, fronted by Dominion, so that Highland County volunteers are not faced with heavy equipment crises.
Moody and Wade responded vaguely to these concerns, saying they work closely with schools, hospitals, and volunteer departments of every size.
“’Working closely with them’ is not providing us with additional personnel and expertise,” Dowd said. “That’s why I don’t like this ‘working closely with.’ That doesn’t tell me anything.”
In response, Wade said they’ll come back to that question. “As I said before, we won’t have every answer to every question,” he said.
Blanchard asked about negotiating with landowners on easements. If Dominion negotiates with a farmer who runs cattle on that land, what are the provisions that they make?
Ramona Kanouff, Manager of Land Acquisition, said that Dominion works with landowners on an individual basis. “We can leave what they call ditch plugs in so that they can cross the ditch,” she said. “We put safety fence up. If we can’t accommodate a ditch crossing, then we will pay for that lost harvest. When we come back during restoration, we’ll replace the fence with either a similar type of fence and materials or improved.”
Wagner brought up the subject of eminent domain; the right companies can have to take land if negotiations with landowners fail. Chuck Wade said they “never ever want to get there.” According to Wade, Dominion doesn’t have to go through that process 90-95% of the time.
“We work hard to negotiate a fair price with each landowner one by one,” Wade said. “Unfortunately, if we do get to that process, it’s only after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) says that what we’re doing is for the public good.”
If Dominion decides to move forward with their Southeast Reliability Project, they will likely submit a Pre-Filing Request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in early October.
The project website is dom.com/sepipeline.