A natural-gas pipeline might run through Tony Parker’s family farm near the Johnston-Sampson county line. He’s OK with that, so long as it doesn’t get in the way.
“The way I understand it, it won’t affect it none,” Parker said. “They say they dig the topsoil up, put the pipe in about four or five feet and then put the same topsoil back on top.”
This past Thursday, Parker was among dozens of Johnston, Sampson and Wilson county landowners who saw how the proposed 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline might cut through their properties. At a public meeting hosted by the project’s developer, Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources, residents could ask questions, voice concerns and make suggestions on how to alter the route.
Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas are partnering with Dominion to build the underground transmission line, which will stretch from the rich shale basins of West Virginia to Robeson County in North Carolina.
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Dominion was one of several companies that responded to a joint solicitation by Duke and Piedmont in April. The proposed 550-mile pipeline starts in West Virginia, runs through Virginia and continues through Robeson County in North Carolina.
Duke needs fuel for the five natural-gas power plants the company has built since 2011. Piedmont will use gas from the pipeline to feed a growing need from its customers. The pipeline deal, announced Sept. 2, also includes AGL Resources and its subsidiary, Virginia Natural Gas, another utility that will take gas from the pipeline.
In Johnston County, one of eight North Carolina counties included in the proposal, the pipeline will run 36.5 miles north to south, initially west of the Interstate 95 corridor near Kenly and Micro, then southeast past Four Oaks and Benson.
In its current form, the pipeline would touch about 301 parcels in Johnston County, where 86 percent of landowners have allowed initial surveying, said Dominion spokesman Frank Mack.
About 1,384 total parcels touch the North Carolina portion of the project, which will require about 110 feet of access for construction and a 50-foot corridor for the buried line.
Communication with the landowners is crucial, Mack said, as Dominion often heeds their suggestions. “Who knows the land better than the landowner?” he said.
Local leaders say the pipeline will bring natural gas closer to sites they say are poised for economic development. Gov. Pat McCrory has said the project, estimated to cost $4.5 billion, can be a boon for the entire state.
A study conducted this summer by Chmura Economics and Analytics estimated the project will add nearly $700 million to the economy during construction and $11.7 million per year after it’s finished in 2018. The study also said the project will create thousands of jobs during construction and 52 permanent jobs.
But building won’t begin until Dominion gets approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The company also needs access to the land where the pipeline will carry gas.
To get the easements, Dominion will attempt to negotiate with landowners whose property is in the path of the final route. If negotiations fail, the company can use eminent domain to get an easement for a price decided by the courts.
Some easement agreements will not allow landowners to build structures or grow trees near the pipeline. On farmland, the company would bury the pipeline deep enough so farmers can continue to plant and harvest crops.
John Suggs leases two tracts of farmland in central Johnston County, both of which have older natural-gas lines running underground. Suggs thought the Dominion pipeline was also aimed at his properties, until he learned Thursday night that they had been taken out of the plan.
“It felt good,” Suggs said after learning about the rerouted line. “I was really concerned.”
A previous map of the proposed pipeline included a lateral extension to Raleigh through Clayton. Dominion has since nixed that plan. A company spokesman said a slight reroute to the west eliminated the need for the lateral.