Upshur County Commission hears about proposed pipeline

BUCKHANNON — Upshur County leaders received updates Thursday on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, as well as heard concerns from the public.

Members of the Upshur County Commission heard a presentation by consultant Ben Hardesty and Christine Mitchell, state and local affairs manager for Dominion, one of the four partners companies proposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Mitchell gave an overview of the projected plans for the pipeline, if it is ultimately approved. She said they hope to have the final environmental impact statement this June, adding that the first draft, released in December, indicated the pipeline would be a “low” risk to the environment.

If approved, they would begin the process of tree trimming in October, and construction could be completed by 2019, with the pipeline going into service late that year.

Hardesty and Mitchell also gave a presentation Thursday to the Randolph County Commission. They have asked local leaders to consider issuing resolutions and letters of support for the project.

Upshur County Commission President Terry Cutright said the commission will place the topic on an upcoming agenda, possibly as early as next week.

“We pretty much have a neutral stance, but we’re going to put it on the agenda so we can discuss it,” Cutright said after Thursday’s meeting.

He noted about five concerned citizens spoke against the pipeline during the public comment portion, raising questions and concerns about potential environmental impacts, water quality and safety.

“They were things we needed to hear,” Cutright said.

The proposed $5 billion natural gas pipeline project would span five counties in West Virginia, starting in Harrison County and going through Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas, before going into Virginia and North Carolina. It’s expected to span about 600 miles total.

“The final route has not been determined at this point,” said Bob Fulton, Dominion media specialist, after Thursday’s meeting.

Fulton noted that, as proposed, the route will include about 23 miles in Upshur County, running west of Buckhannon and near Tallmansville, and about 30 miles in Randolph County. The pipeline will be 42 inches and will be almost entirely underground, he added.

The estimated annual property taxes would be about $2.8 million for Randolph County and about $2.1 million for Upshur County, Fulton said.

The program is part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, a company formed by four major U.S. energy companies: Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources, which would develop, own and operate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

According to information on Dominion’s website, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will support 17,240 jobs during its construction and 2,200 jobs if approved.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, and the public can comment on it through April 6.

Two FERC public comments sessions on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement have been scheduled, with one set for 5 to 9 p.m. March 1 at the Gandy Dance Theater in Elkins, and another set for 5 to 9 p.m. March 2 at the Community Wellness Center in Marlinton.

A separate public meeting hosted by concerned community groups is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 23 in the Performing Arts Center at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon.

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