Natural Gas Pipeline Might Run Through Highland County

Dominion Resources, a power and energy company based in Richmond, Virginia, recently announced that they’re considering building a natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina. Based on the map Dominion issued, the pipeline would travel through a large portion of Highland County.

Jim Norvil, a spokesman for Dominion, said that the company has not yet made a decision on whether or not to build the pipeline.

“When you build natural gas pipelines, we have got to decide do we want to do this project. It’s obviously a rather long project. It’s a rather big project. It’s an expensive project. So we have not yet decided to go forward or not, but we believe it would be beneficial to areas along the line and at the end of the line that are looking for low-cost abundant supplies of natural gas that are only available in the Marcellus Shale area of West Virginia and Pennsylvania.”

The pipeline would be used to transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation where natural gas is extracted through a process known as hydraulic fracturing. For each hydraulic fracturing job, millions of gallons of water are mixed with thousands of gallons of chemicals and injected deep underground at very high pressures. This creates cracks in the geological formation, allowing oil or natural gas to escape through the well and get collected at the surface.

“We’re taking the first steps in that consideration process, and that is looking at possible routes for the transmission line from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina. We have notified landowners along the study corridor that we will have surveyors in their area, surveying for the best possible route with a minimal environmental impact.”

Dominion's mapBut people are concerned about how much of an impact this pipeline would have. While natural gas is considered a cleaner and more abundant fuel than coal, the drilling activity in the Marcellus Shale has led to serious environmental concerns. The Highlanders for Responsible Development, a group of citizens working to help promote the natural resources of Highland County, Virginia, released a statement in response to this potential pipeline. Lewis Freeman is president of the group.

“A communication was sent to the Board of Supervisors of Highland County which included a fact sheet and a draft letter that Dominion indicated they were going to be sending out to landowners who were in the potential path of this pipeline. That was all. There was no background information, and my understanding is at least at that time, there were no discussions.”

“The map that was released by Dominion indicated that the route they were considering would enter Highland County in the northwest and bisect the county down to the southeast. The area of the county through which the pipeline would travel would be through some of the most ecologically sensitive areas, not only in Highland County, but in Virginia.”

The Highlanders for Responsible Development wonder what environmental impact the project will have on Highland County, specifically, how it will affect water, wildlife, and air. In the past six years, since the boom of hydraulic fracturing, the process has been linked to groundwater and surface water contamination, affecting farming operations, wildlife habitats, and everyday life for people whose homes, schools, and jobs are nearby.

“Marcellus Shale, in 2008, was producing no natural gas. Today, it’s approaching 16 billion cubic feet of natural gas production a day, and that’s expected to continue to grow.”

The Highlanders for Responsible Development urge Highland County residents and officials to be informed and involved in a public dialogue about the project. As Jim Norvil indicates, Dominion is still in the planning stages, and many questions still remain unanswered.

“If we decide to build a pipeline, we have to go to the federal government for permission, and that may or may not happen by the end of this year. If we decide to pursue the project, we believe it can be operational as early as the end of 2018.

“Obviously it’s going to be hundreds of miles. You just look at a map and you see Harrison County, West Virginia, and you come across Virginia to the Emporia area, and then down and toward Lumberton, North Carolina, and that’s hundreds of miles. But we don’t have an exact enough number to share yet.”

Story By

Megan Moriarty

Current Weather