Pipeline moving along

Published 9:35 pm Friday, April 28, 2017

Construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is expected to start by this fall in multiple areas simultaneously.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a 550-mile-long, $4.5-billion project that will transport natural gas from Harrison County, W.Va., to Robeson County, N.C., with a spur coming east from the Virginia/North Carolina state line through Hampton Roads. About 33 miles of the pipeline is expected to run through Suffolk.

The pipeline is a partnership among four energy companies: Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas.

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Company officials gave an update on their progress this week.

“I am pleased to say the project continues to move forward on all fronts,” said Diane Leopold, president and chief executive officer of Dominion Energy.

Leopold said the project is needed to ensure energy reliability in Virginia and North Carolina.

“Public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina are depending on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to bring new supplies of natural gas,” she said. “The region’s existing pipeline infrastructure is fully tapped and unable to meet these growing needs.”

Leopold said the project will lower energy costs and stimulate economic growth, creating thousands of new jobs.

She also said it will reduce air emissions through reduced use of coal and fuel oil.

Leopold said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to issue a final environmental impact statement by June 30. The U.S. Forest Service has given preliminary approval to drill under the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail.

“We’re pleased to report the surveys are virtually complete and the route is essentially finalized,” Leopold added. About 98 percent of landowners have given their consent to the surveys, and more than 300 route adjustments have been made as a result of those surveys.

“The result of this process is a stronger route that will have fewer environmental impacts and fewer impacts on landowners,” Leopold said.

The company has already completed easement agreements with more than 60 percent of the affected landowners, and they have been compensated, Leopold added.

Eminent domain is a final option when landowners are not cooperative.

“We don’t prefer it, but in order to complete the project that has been determined to be in the public need, that is an option,” said Leslie Hartz, vice president of pipeline construction for Dominion Energy.

On the materials front, more than 65 percent of the steel pipes needed for the pipeline have been constructed. All of the steel pipes are being constructed in the United States, “putting hundreds of people to work,” Leopold said. However, about half of the steel was sourced from South Korea, because the thicker-walled pipe was not available in the United States, Hartz said.

“This project will result in more economic opportunity, a cleaner environment and lower energy bills for consumers and businesses,” Leopold said.