Pipeline moving forward locally
ELKINS — Dominion Energy officials are gearing up for work to begin on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will span across 100 miles of the state.
Residents in Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties will begin seeing workers entering the area to begin setting up staging areas where mobile offices will be placed and pipeline will be stored.
“What is expected to happen here in the next couple of weeks, especially in Randolph County, is the work yard that will be where the workers will report to and where the offices will be set up — in Randolph County it will be in the Elkwater area between Huttonsville and Valley Head off Rt. 250,” said Denise Campbell, community liaison for the ACP. “I was just by that way today, they actually have the stakes out and the signs up. They will be preparing that property to be the work yard.
“The goal is, from a report from the engineer of the project, is that they hope to have construction started in June,” she continued.
Campbell said the work yard in Pocahontas County will be located in Frost and work on it is scheduled to start in July. The Harrison County work station is slated to be in the Bridgeport area.
Robert C. Orndorff, senior policy advisor for state and local affairs in West Virginia, said even once staging areas are in place it is unclear when pipe will begin being laid for the project, based on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requirements and unpredictable weather.
“The biggest problem is, when we talk about exacts with this project, we are really at the mercy of FERC and the other things of that nature that could potentially impact the actual pipe in the ground,” he said. “I think what will start happening is we will get that work area completed, then we will start to bring in and stage the pipe. Right now, the pipe for this project is in Morgantown. … I suspect you will start seeing pipe deliveries very soon, but we can’t bring it in until the pipe yards are completed and ready for us. I would say that should start in the next month or so — specifically within two weeks to a month.”
Campbell said as of Friday, FERC gave an order to proceed on certain areas of the pipeline, excluding areas within the Monongahela National Forest.
Orndorff added 80 percent of tree felling has been completed up to this point.
“With the order to proceed we were give on Friday, from FERC, we’re seeing all the areas that we’re working on in 2018 will be preparing the yard to get ready for construction,” Campbell said.
“The order was for certain specific areas — certain areas we have trees cleared, certain areas that are ready and we have all our sites on. It’s not the entire project in West Virginia, it’s only those areas that are going to be available in the 2018 time frame, excluding the (Monongahela) National Forest,” Orndorff added. “Eighty percent of the trees that need to be felled have been felled in West Virginia. That’s enough for us to work around. We can work around the areas we weren’t able to do the tree falling.”
Orndorff said the main issue they have seen is a lack of restaurants for workers, who begin early in the day, can’t leave the work site for lunch and also work late.
“I have charged Denise with taking that on and finding restaurants that are willing to feed our workers. They start early in the morning and it’s a long day. They can’t go off the job and go someplace to eat so they have to have their lunches with them when they leave from breakfast,” he said. “Then, they generally work a 10- to 12-hour shift.”
Dominion Energy officials also addressed a ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, that a United States Fish and Wildlife Incidental Take Statement, meant to limit killing of threatened or endangered species, was not detailed enough.
Bruce McKay, senior energy policy director of state and local affairs, issued a press release Wednesday in response to that ruling.
“We spent more than three years developing the safest and most environmentally responsible route for the pipeline. We carefully studied more than 6,000 miles of potential routes before choosing the best 600-mile route with the least impact. After consulting with landowners and performing extensive field surveys, we made more than 300 route adjustments to avoid environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, wildlife habitats, drinking water sources and sensitive geologic features,” McKay said in the release.
“We are continuing to analyze the order and the effects it will have on the project. We can say that the impact of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling is on a small portion of the 600-mile route and there will be no impact in North Carolina. Through our project planning, we purposefully avoided areas of endangered species which is why the impact of this ruling is relatively limited,” the release continued.
McKay’s official statement said Dominion will continue to work with all agencies to keep this process as seamless and safe as possible.
“We are consulting with federal and state agencies, as we have throughout this project. Our next steps will be to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who we expect will revise the Incidental Take Statement to provide limits that are more specific,” he said.
“While we do not have a specific date of when the revised Incidental Take Statement will be prepared, ACP has conducted extensive survey work for all six (endangered) species over the past four years and there is a robust record on which to resolve this matter in an expedited manner. We will fully comply as required while we continue to construct the project,” McKay continued. “We will continue to move forward with construction as scheduled.”
As proposed, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route will begin in Harrison County and travel southeast about 100 miles before crossing into Virginia.
One mile will be located in southwestern Harrison County and about 20 miles will be located in northwest Lewis County.
The proposed pipeline route will include about 23 miles in Upshur County, running south of Buckhannon and Tallmansville; about 30 miles in Randolph County; and about 25 miles in Pocahontas County near Slatyfork and Dunmore. The pipeline will be 42 inches running underground.
Dominion Energy is the company that plans to build and operate the 600-mile pipeline, along with Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas.