Pipeline Questions & Answers at August 19th Pocahontas County Commission Meeting
During the August 19th Pocahontas County Commission meeting, representatives from Dominion Resources presented information about the company’s proposed natural gas pipeline. The public had a chance to speak and ask questions about the possible 550-mile project.
John Roddy has been a landowner in Pocahontas County for 45 years. Before retiring, Roddy was an attorney with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the same independent federal agency that Dominion will work with if they decide to pursue their Southeast Reliability Project. “I have thirty years of experience dealing with pipeline applications precisely like this one,” he said, “running scoping meetings, assisting in writing the Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), operating the Hotline and litigating the thing from start to finish.”
“I am very experienced, in short, with a lot things I hope you never have to deal with,” Roddy said. “I have the greatest confidence in the FERC Environmental Staff as they perform the environmental assessment or EIS, and I have worked with them closely for years. I am happy to help you folks in explaining FERC procedures, scoping meetings where the Commission will convene and ask the populous, ‘What should we be looking at? What is important for us to study?’ And I also can help with any discussion of Eminent Domain, should it unfortunately ever have to come to that.”
Roddy asked Dominion where exactly the pipeline would cross the state line from West Virginia into Virginia and if they had surveys of the area. Project Supervisor Greg Park said they have not surveyed in Pocahontas County yet, but he said they plan to cross adjacent to where Rt. 250 crosses the state line.
Roddy said he “would not be delighted” to see this pipeline go through his land or the county. “Because I honestly don’t see anything in it for us,” he said. “We’re between people making money. We get a one-time payment for the scar across the land. You have to make your own assessment on the good or the bad on that. You have some streams that will possibly be interfered with. You have some other areas that will be subject to interruption. You may have the bear and the turkey chased away by the disruption from the construction, and you’ve got a number of small pieces of the local economy—the motels, the groceries, the restaurants—that count on the fishermen and the hunters for their livelihood, and they may suffer. You’re going to have to do the analysis. I can’t tell you.”
WV Wilderness Lovers representative Lauren Ragland brought up the subject of elevation change. “This pipeline is 1.5 billion cubic feet a day,” she said. “We go from 2,000 feet in Mill Creek up to 4,000+ feet crossing the Alleghenies. That’s a lot of pressure, to take this natural gas up and over these mountains.”
Ragland asked how many aboveground facilities would be along the pipeline. Dominion Representative Robert Orndorff said there would be no liquid separators because they’re transporting “dry gas,” or natural gas that is almost completely methane. Surveyor Brittany Moody said there would be “pig launchers,” which are used to clean and inspect the pipeline, every 90-100 miles. According to Moody, the three planned compressor stations were determined based on a system that accounts for factors such as elevation change.
The next question was directed to the county commission: “What power does the county commission have to deny permission for the construction of this pipeline in Pocahontas County?”
Commissioner David Fleming said that the commission probably has more power than they realize. “If this county commission wanted, for some reason, 3-0 to oppose this project completely, and we wrote a letter to FERC after the application was submitted,” Fleming said, “I would imagine FERC would take that very seriously and would work to try to find ways to accommodate our concerns or work around the county entirely.”
Fleming said he thinks the right approach is to become a “stakeholder,” a term Robert Orndorff used to describe the commission’s role in the FERC process. “I feel like my responsibility as a commissioner is to try to address concerns as best as possible and for us as a commission to come up with an official statement to FERC at the time the application would be filed as to our concerns, our hopes, etc. from this project and start there.”
“So it’s important that we as a county find out how we can benefit from this,” Fleming said. “Whatever concerns that seem insurmountable, can we surmount them? Can we work through them? Or is this something we ultimately feel that we can’t justify, that there’s not enough in it for the county in whatever way that means: jobs, economy, too much risk to tourism and the environment. There’s a lot to think about.”