Interview with Jim Norvelle
Earlier this year, Dominion Resources, Inc. issued a map for a proposed natural gas pipeline, one that would travel 450 miles from the Marcellus Shale rock formation in West Virginia over to North Carolina. Based on the map Dominion issued, the pipeline would travel through northern Pocahontas County, as well as a large portion of Highland County. Reports suggest that that the proposed pipeline would be 42” in diameter, with compression stations every 10-40 miles to push the natural gas over the mountains.
This project raises many questions and concerns for communities along the pipeline. I spoke with Jim Norvelle, a spokesperson for Dominion, to see if he could shine some light on the situation.
JN: My name is Jim Norvelle. I’m a spokesman for Dominion Energy, which is a natural gas subsidiary of Dominion Resources. And Dominion is looking into the possibility of building the Southeast Reliability Project, a pipeline that would extend from West Virginia through Virginia into North Carolina.
JN: We remain in the initial early steps of this project. We are surveying properties in West Virginia, but we have not yet started surveying in Virginia. We have started surveying in North Carolina. So we are still in the very early stages of determining whether we’re going to do this project or not, and we are in the very early stages or surveying for the best possible route with the least impact to the environment, historic, and cultural resources.
MM: One of the things that people in this community have been wondering about is how this pipeline would affect the area. We’re wondering how this is going to impact tourism and the environment in general.
JN: Sure. I think we’re a little early to talk about specific changes or what the effects could be. Certainly there will be an increase in workers coming to the area to help build the pipeline if this is something we’re going to do. Once a pipeline is finished, it is only slightly visible. You might see it in an area where there may be some trees, and you see a clearing of about 50-75 feet wide, and that clearing is the right of way for the buried pipeline. But once the pipeline is built and in operation, it’s basically a very slightly visible project, if visible at all.
MM: Can you tell me about compressor stations and about how many would be along the pipeline?
JN: You know, that’s to be determined. We’re not quite there yet, but it will be very few and very far apart, is what the projections are from the engineers.
MM: What are the projected benefits [for] people along the pipeline once it’s completed and it exists in this area?
JN: Well certainly, if we reach negotiations with landowners to get easements for their property for a very small portion of their property, to build a pipeline, there is obviously some remuneration that the landowners receive for them giving us permission to build the pipeline on their property. Certainly along sections of the pipeline, there may be an interest in either a large commercial customer, an industrial customer, or perhaps even a local gas utility to tap into the pipeline. Now that may be—that’s what I say over the course of the pipeline, from West Virginia through the Carolinas.
MM: So what is the timeline that we’re looking at here?
JN: Well, we’re still—we’re not finished surveying, and once you finish surveying, then you have to get your heads together to select that best possible route with the least impact. Then we would be going to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission later this year to file an application to construct the pipeline, and if we receive all the permits and approvals, the project we believe could be completed by late 2018. We’ve got a long way to go on that, and certainly one of the first steps is going to be: are we going to build this project? And we have not yet made that decision.
MM: I appreciate that you said the, “least impact.” It just makes me wonder what type of impact you foresee happening.
JN: Well what you start with when you look at a possible route for a pipeline is you go and obtain all the maps you can of things like historic resources, cultural resources, environmental resources, such as forest land. Such as the Monongahela National Forest. And you take all of these into consideration when you look for the best possible route with the least impact to the environment, to cultural and historic resources. So we need to take that into consideration if we’re looking at property for a possible route.
MM: One thing that people are concerned about here is water contamination.
JN: Well certainly, when you build pipelines, you have to follow all of the laws of the state and of the federal government, and we will make sure that we follow those laws as applicable statutes to make sure that we have the least impact we possibly can on those areas.
MM: Where can I go to find more information about those laws?
JN: That’s a good question. I need to talk to my environmental people about that. It’s probably—I mean, by law—every state’s laws have got to be online someplace. It’s just a matter of trying to point you in the right direction.
MM: There’s going to be a public meeting about the proposed pipelines, and I heard that you had been invited to attend this meeting. It’s on July 19th.
JN: Right. And this is a meeting that’s not one we’re going to attend right now. It’s way too early. We do not have enough detailed information to share with the public. I would not want to go to the meeting and say, “Here’s the route.” And then, the next day, they come to me and say we changed the route because of information we found out from this landowner or that landowner. We will have lots of public meetings along the route, and those will occur at the right time. This is not the appropriate time.
MM: When do you suspect that these meetings will begin?
JN: Well, the route selection process will probably take from now to the end of the year. We don’t have a schedule yet for our meetings. Once we have those meetings scheduled, make sure everybody knows about it.