Pipeline developers brief Roanoke County Board of Supervisors and committee of Regional Chamber of Commerce
Below are notes from briefings last Tuesday and Wednesday regarding a proposed natural gas pipeline through Roanoke County. EQT and NextEra are partnering to build a 300-mile natural gas pipeline from Marcellus Shale fields in West Virginia across the Alleghenies and the Blue Ridge to the North Carolina line. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the decisive body in this process. The company has a website devoted to the project mountainvalleypipeline.info.
Here are the notes:
Roanoke County Board of Supervisors
October 14, 2014
Briefing on proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline
Corporate website for pipeline project: http://mountainvalleypipeline.info/
- Joseph Dawley – Corporate Director, Government Affairs (EQT)
- Chris Sherman – Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs (NextEra)
- Maurice Royster – a Tennessee-based lobbyist for EQT (and Vice President, Virginia Oil and Gas Association)
Landowners in Roanoke County currently “are being contacted”
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the only approval needed
The pipeline provides cheap gas to new markets in the Southeast
Can replace coal for electricity generation
Resource for manufacturing
Gas comes from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio – currently a “proliferation” in supply
Local benefits for Roanoke County:
- Access to natural gas
Mountain Valley Pipeline
- About 300 miles long
- Will use 36” to 42” pipe
- Will have 3-4 compressor stations
- Have secured 20-year commitments from customers
- Total construction cost $3.0 to $3.5 billion
Roanoke County portion – refers to vague map on their website http://group2designpgh.com/eqt-mountain/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/MVP-Rev3-2-10032014-VA-Roanoke.pdf
Have sent out letters to landowners [a little vague about this]
Will make preliminary filing with FERC by the end of this month (October 2014)
Will conduct Environmental Impact studies 2014-2016
Construction to be completed 2018
- FERC scoping public meetings Spring 2015
- Comment periods 2014-2016
- DEQ will be involved in permitting
Questions from Roanoke County Board of Supervisors
Questions from Supervisor Charlotte Moore [all are paraphrased from my notes]
- Where can we find detailed maps of the project? He refers her to the vague map on their website.
- How long does corrosion protection on pipes last? What about danger of explosions?
He does not know answers. Would have to bring in experts.
- How deep would the pipeline be? What equipment would be used? Would there be blasting? Pipeline would be 3 to 4 feet deep. He can provide no details on blasting.
- Will there be a public hearing on the Environmental Impact Statement? Yes
Questions from Supervisor Butch Church
- I was getting calls from constituents who got letters from your company before the Board of Supervisors received notification of this project. Project is “moving very fast.” Apologizes for not notifying Board of Supervisors.
- We look for transparency in this process, but your resources are very vague. Why? The map on the website has the details.
- Where does the pipeline cross the Blue Ridge Parkway? Crossings of the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway are the “two main spots of concern” for the project. Says he has maps but won’t tell exactly where it will cross the Blue Ridge Parkway. Want to co-locate on an existing right-of-way.
- The map shows the project running right next to our key water supply lake at Spring Hollow Reservoir. Have you notified the Western Virginia Water Authority? No, have not notified Western Virginia Water Authority.
Questions from Supervisor Al Bedrosian
- I appreciate that you are a for-profit company, but what about the rights of the private property owner? What happens if they say no? They look at adjacent property instead.
- What if it comes to use of eminent domain to take land from an unwilling owner? [The speaker gave an evasive answer, and the Supervisor stopped asking questions.]
- How many family tracts are affected in Roanoke County? 55 tracts.
Questions from Supervisor Joe McNamara
- This project was originally routed through Floyd County, where it met great opposition. Why did you change the route and why would Roanoke County not repeat with similar opposition? The project was moved from Floyd County for “substantive reasons,” not because of community opposition. Crossing [of the Blue Ridge Parkway] “was not ideal.”
- Have all affected landowners been contacted? He does not know. The route keeps changing.
Questions from Supervisor Jason Peters
- Will this natural gas be consumed by domestic users or by foreign users? It goes to the Pittsylvania County line. Can’t say where it will end up. “Gas molecules flow all over the place.”
- Is the permitting all from the federal government? Does Roanoke County grant any permits? The permitting is all federal.
Citizen comments [apologies if I spelled your name wrong – all items are paraphrased from my notes]
- POLLY BRANCH. Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachians are vital. Worried. Is this a done deal with feds? Calamities along pipelines. Fracking is dangerous. Should seek alternatives instead.
- ANN LUZBY DENHAM. Could be one of the largest pipelines in the country, meaning more blasting and bigger explosion if it fails. Threatens water supply due to pipeline leaks and herbicides used to keep down vegetation along route. Concerns about Spring Hollow Reservoir, property values, insurance, etc. Notes lawsuit against EQT in Southwest Virginia. [see http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=4220285 on lawsuits against EQT in Virginia and elsewhere.]
- ANN ROGERS. Concerns about impact on water supply. Geologic formation – Blue Ridge Plateau – has water in fissures – our ground water. Blasting will disturb fissures, affecting private wells and springs. Will devalue local real estate. Ask planning department to talk with Floyd County and Virginia Tech source about Blue Ridge Plateau.
- ELDON KARR. Took EQT’s pdf map and overlaid with Google Earth. It showed the line going right through his property. But he did not receive a letter – his neighbors did. Project lacks transparency with vague, inaccurate map on website. Concerned about runoff into Roanoke River and Spring Hollow Reservoir. Also Bottom Creek – a Tier 3 stream per DEQ. Pipeline would have “dramatic impact.” Ask EQT to quickly present detailed maps of route, knowing it may be modified.
- BRIAN WISHKOFF. Afraid pipelines are oversold, especially regarding positive economic impact. Wants to use railroads instead. Pipeline is a monopoly, and we are stuck with it even when the technology changes.
- KIRK BOWERS. Pipeline Chair, Virginia Chapter, Sierra Club. Shows power point on pipelines. 42” pipeline is huge, largest in Virginia and going over mountains. Encourages more fracking. Has numerous water crossings. Property values will go down. It crosses the Appalachian Trail, and he has an email from the National Park supervisor of the AT saying that crossing of the AT by a pipeline requires an act of Congress.
- JIM WOLZ. County should take a positive role. Hopes it does not come through. Has 40+ springs on his own Bent Mountain property, headwaters for Bottom Creek Gorge. His land is protected by conservation easement.
- KEVIN ORCA. Lists EQT criminal charges in Pennsylvania. [see story here http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/blog/energy/2014/10/attorney-generals-office-files-environmental.html]
- MARA ROBBINS. Floyd County leader. They did their research and worked with their Board of Supervisors. She offers to share research with Roanoke County and provide briefing.
- VIRGINIA WISE. Bent Mountain resident. We must defend our properties. There is no local benefit – no local distribution lines. Many hazards, including threats to water. Floyd County Board of Supervisors worked with citizens – hope Roanoke County will also.
- BRIAN _____. EQT is a shell corporation that will go out of business if there is a problem and leave us holding the bag. [EQT is related to a number of other companies https://www.google.com/finance/related?q=NYSE%3AEQT&ei=GoZGVOjcN4G9sQfNwoDICw]
EQT did not choose to respond to the comments, simply stating that “This is the beginning of a very long process.”
Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce
October 15, 2014
Briefing for Public Policy Forum
- Chris Sherman – Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs (NextEra) http://www.nexteraenergy.com/ NextEra owns Florida Power & Light. They are the largest generator of renewable energy in the United States, operating in 26 states. Here is their news release on the project: http://www.nexteraenergy.com/news/contents/2014/100814.shtml.
- Maurice Royster – a Tennessee-based lobbyist for EQT (and Vice President, Virginia Oil and Gas Association) – says he knows most of the people in the room. He notes that EQT, which is Pittsburgh-based, is the largest producer in Appalachia. Have recently sold half of their production in Southwest Virginia. [related to lawsuits? http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=4220285]
- Aaron Ruby [?sp?] – PR consultant from Richmond
- Pipeline will bring “huge economic benefits to the region” due to Marcellus shale.
- All sectors are moving towards natural gas, and project demand is over-subscribed.
- “Some sources” estimate there is a 100-year supply of natural gas
- Will use 36″ to 42” pipe
- $3 to $3.5 billion will be expended on the pipeline
- Permitting will be “overseen” by feds as “public necessity and convenience”
- Subject to NEPA review
- They will prefile with FERC “in a few days”
- Actual application takes about a year
- Expect permit in fall 2016, construction 2017, flow 2018 [website says fourth quarter 2018]
- Denying access [by landowners] is “not constructive”
Biggest issues are, he says
- Environmental protection, including surface restoration
- Pipeline safety
Most of the spending will be for construction
Questions from real estate lawyer whose client got a letter. Will Virginia actually use the line? Will it lower local natural gas prices? It could happen.
Would we have preference for access to the pipeline? Not now. Would be up to Roanoke Gas to make a connection to the line.
Other points discussed:
- Floyd County crossing of Blue Ridge Parkway had a “high conservation value.” This was main reason for moving the route to Roanoke County.
- Would use horizontal directional drilling (HDD) for crossings of AT and BRP http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directional_boring
- They estimate 100-year life for pipeline
- Although they can share rights-of-way with existing AEP 138 kv lines, they cannot locate right under them. And they need a 70-foot corridor – with larger (125 feet or more) needed during construction.
- He says 42” is a “common” size for a pipeline
- When asked about developing a greenway along the pipeline route, he said they had not considered it.
- When asked about articles in the New York Times and elsewhere reporting that mortgage agreements with many banks do not allow acceptance of payments for gas pipeline easements due to potential lower property values, he said he had never heard of it. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/us/rush-to-drill-for-gas-creates-mortgage-conflicts.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all&