Johnston County landowners are seeking small changes to a proposed natural gas pipeline that would cut underneath their lands.
The pipeline would run for 550 miles, from West Virginia to North Carolina. During an open house Jan. 7, landowners lobbied for small changes they said would better protect their properties. While some sought to move the route to woods instead of cropland, others wanted to shift the path to land they use less often.
Gerald Lee’s family farm in the Strickland’s Crossroads community in southern Johnston County sits in the path of the proposed route. At the open house, Lee asked the project’s developer, Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources, to move the pipeline from the middle of his farm to a narrower stretch of land between two wooded areas.
“We don’t want to try to change it a lot, and we aren’t going to get belligerent about it,” Lee said. “But we want to make the best out of it.”
Lee said Dominion was receptive to his family’s request and said it could likely make the change.
Along the proposed Johnston route, most Johnston landowners, about 86 percent, have allowed crews to survey their properties. In all, the pipeline would cross about 280 parcels in the county.
Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas are partnering with Dominion to build the underground transmission line, which would stretch from the rich shale basins of West Virginia to Robeson County in North Carolina. Duke needs fuel for the five natural-gas power plants the company has built since 2011, and Piedmont will use gas from the pipeline to feed a growing need from its customers.
Dominion has filed plans with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which must approve the project. The open house on Jan. 7 was a required part of the FERC process.
Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle said it’s common for the company to make small changes to a route based on feedback at open houses and other public meetings.
“Nobody knows the land better than the landowner,” Norvelle said.
In North Carolina, the pipeline would touch about 1,400 parcels. It would require a 110-foot-wide access for construction and a 50-foot corridor for the buried line.
Local leaders who attended the open house said they want the pipeline to follow a path that least affects residents. They also hope the pipeline will bring natural gas closer to sites they say are poised for economic development.
“They want to sell gas, so I think they will try to work with us so long as its economically feasible,” said Johnston County Commissioner Ted Godwin, whose home in Selma is near the path of the pipeline.
Norvelle said companies will be able to use the gas, either by tapping into the line or working with Piedmont Natural Gas, which has a franchise in the area.
A study conducted this summer by Chmura Economics and Analytics estimated the project would add nearly $700 million to the economy during construction and $11.7 million per year after it’s finished in 2018. The study said the project would create thousands of jobs during construction and 52 permanent jobs.
But building can’t begin until Dominion gets approval from FERC and gets access to the needed land.
To get the easements, Dominion will try to negotiate with landowners whose properties are 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 would not allow landowners to build structures or grow trees near the pipeline. On farmland, the company says it would bury the pipeline deep enough so farmers could continue to plant and harvest crops.