Dominion Representative Discusses Project Plans

At Thursday night’s Dominion open house, Frank Mack, Dominion Transmissions Communications manager, explained the purpose of the event.

“We had open houses back in September, so this is the second round, and the purpose of this, again, is to maintain transparency, and make people aware, who are interested in the project, they can attend to see  the latest route. The route has been changed hundreds of times probably, since the last open house, and again, that’s based on important and critical feedback from landowners. And also have an opportunity to talk to our subject matter experts – if they have questions about safety, environmental, right-of-way, construction, engineering – our subject matter experts are here, hopefully to be able to answer just about any question they have.”

He updated the status of surveying efforts, including current and pending litigation.

“There’s 65 tracts of land in Highland, and 77% of those tracts have been surveyed already, so that’s a pretty high percentage – that’s a little higher than the overall. We have about 3,000 landowners along the route in the three states, and about 75% have given us permission.

“We filed legal action against the landowners who have steadfastly refused us permission to survey. The court began serving notices to some of these folks last week – there were four landowners in Highland County, and we anticipate a total of about 11 in Highland County. So the landowners who have been served have 21 days to respond, and the court will set up a date in the very near future. We feel confident because we followed the statute of the law that we will get a court order affirming our right to be able to survey. You know, to be honest, it’s really in their benefit to allow us to look at their property, because they know their property better than anyone else. They can make us aware of areas to avoid. You know, we’re in a 300 foot study corridor, so we have an opportunity to be able to move the pipeline, and we’ve done that hundreds of times since last fall.”

Mr. Mack gave his opinion on acceptance of the project, based on feedback at this series of informational events.

“There are some counties that are not in favor of the pipeline going through their county, but in general, most of the counties are in favor. We’ve had numerous counties write resolutions in favor of the project, so, you know, I would say overall, it’s pretty positive. To be honest, Augusta and Nelson are the two that are the most vocal in opposition to that, but, you know, we’re working with them, and again, we’re trying to find the best route, with the least impact on the environment, if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves the project.”

“The next step in the process, before we file this summer, is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be holding scoping meetings. They have not announced when and where or how many, but we’re expecting that they would have several based on the length of the route. And those scoping meetings, typically, F.E.R.C. representatives would open up the meeting, with a high level summary of what the project’s all about, and then any individual, it could be a stakeholder or landowner, for or against the project, if they want to speak,  they can sign up to speak, they will be able to talk. Typically, individuals get three minutes to speak, and they can talk about anything they want about the project. Those are for individuals, and if they are representing a group, an organization, a non-profit, at least in past experience, they get four or five minutes.”

Mr. Mack summed up his remarks with a look at the origin of the project, and the potential benefits.

“Duke Energy  and Piedmont Natural Gas put out a Request for Proposal last April, because they have a growing need for gas now, and in the future. Dominion was one of five or six companies that bid on building a pipeline for them to get the gas to them. All four of the joint venture partners are customers, so they have a lot at stake – all of them have a need for natural gas now, and they see a large growing need for it.

“The benefit for this project, throughout the region, will be Dominion Virginia Power in Virginia, and Duke Energy in North Carolina, they want to replace their less efficient coal plant. That means it’s going to be cleaner air for the region, because natural gas burning is cleaner than coal. That also means, a good possibility that customer bills will be lower.

“There’s going to be millions of dollars in property tax revenue for all the counties where there’s a pipeline. There’s going to be thousands of jobs, although a lot of them are going to be temporary, because the construction folks – but its going to be a huge economic benefit for a lot of the counties along the way, because the construction folks that come in, they need a place to stay, place to eat, place to buy gas, so you know, a lot of the local businesses are going to benefit from that.”

“So we see there’s a lot of benefit – there’s a huge need – we’re confident that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is going to approve it, but ultimately, it’s going to be for the F.E.R.C. to decide if it’s in the public’s best interest.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Current Weather