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Mountain Valley submits application for new pipeline to North Carolina

Mountain Valley submits application for new pipeline to North Carolina

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The developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have taken the first formal step in seeking federal approval for a 73-mile extension of the natural gas pipeline into North Carolina.

An application filed Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission details Mountain Valley’s plan for a new project that will begin in Pittsylvania County, at the end point of a 303-mile pipeline the company is currently building in West Virginia and Virginia.

Called MVP Southgate, the underground pipeline would run to Alamance County and provide gas to PSNC Energy, a local distribution company that plans to expand a system that serves more than 563,000 customers in North Carolina.

Mountain Valley’s application makes official a proposal announced in April.

Although the regulatory process is just beginning, reaction has fallen into the same opposing camps that formed during years of controversy over the original pipeline’s route.

In touting the pipeline’s economic benefits and reliable supply of natural gas, Mountain Valley pointed to endorsements it has garnered from organizations such as the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the state’s Economic Development Commission.

“Many employers rely on natural gas to fuel their operations and construction of the MVP Southgate project will bolster efforts to attract and retain businesses in North Carolina,” chamber executive Gary Salamido was quoted as saying in a news release from Mountain Valley.

Opponents, meanwhile, have questioned the need for the pipeline, the use of eminent domain to obtain private land along its route and the “irreparable damage” it would cause to the environment, according to written comments submitted to FERC.

Of particular concern to some Pittsylvania County residents is a plan to build a compressor station, which will use two gas-driven turbines to produce the 28,915 horsepower needed to move gas at high pressure through the pipeline. The facility would be about three miles east of Chatham.

Noise and air pollution generated by compressor stations were cited by opponents in 2015, when Mountain Valley considered building one for the current pipeline in either Montgomery County or Roanoke County. Those plans were later withdrawn.

Pipeline foes have also warned that erosion and sediment from construction sites will contaminate nearby streams, posing a risk to the environment and drinking water.

Karen Maute of Pittsylvania County, a longtime pipeline opponent, said she feared that economic and political influences will outweigh any consideration given to the health and safety of county residents.

“Pittsylvania politicians will not blink an eye as the pipeline tears through properties,” she wrote in an email Wednesday.

Three compressor stations are being built along the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s nearly 200-mile path through West Virginia. The one proposed for Pittsylvania County would be the first in Virginia for Mountain Valley.

The location is mostly rural with a mix of forest and open land, although several homes and Virginia Route 57 are within a one-mile radius, according to documents filed with FERC. A compressor station for another pipeline sits just northeast of the site.

As currently proposed, MVP Southgate would originate in Chatham, where the Mountain Valley Pipeline would also connect to the existing Transco pipeline for distribution to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.

Gas specifically destined for North Carolina would be transported through the new pipeline, which would pass west of Danville , cross the Virginia-North Carolina line near Eden in Rockingham County, and then head southeast into Alamance County, terminating just south of Interstate 40 near Burlington.

The first 31 miles would consist of a 24-inch diameter steel pipe; the next 42 miles would be 16 inches in diameter.

A little more than half of the route would be along existing rights of way established for a different natural gas pipeline and a power transmission line.

The estimated cost of the project is $468 million.

In deciding whether to approve Mountain Valley’s application, FERC will consider whether there is a public need for the gas to be delivered by the pipeline. Other factors, such as public safety and impacts to natural, historic and cultural resources, will also be taken into account.

The company said this week that it hopes to obtain approval in time to begin work on MVP Southgate in early 2020 and have the pipeline operational by the end of the same year.

Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is expected to be completed in late 2019.

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Laurence Hammack covers environmental issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and business and enterprise stories. He has been a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than three decades.

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