Smithfield Herald

Dominion to reroute natural gas pipeline extension, avoid Clayton

The latest map of a proposed natural-gas pipeline no longer shows an extension to Raleigh, an omission that could bypass some Johnston County homes that had been in the project’s original path.

Previous plans for the 550-mile pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina called for multiple branches that would carry gas away from the main pipeline, which would follow Interstate 95. One of those branches was to pass through Clayton on its way to Raleigh.

But Dominion Resources, the company that hopes to build the pipeline, no longer plans to reach Raleigh through Clayton, said spokesman Jim Norvelle. Instead, the Richmond, Va.-based energy company has shifted the North Carolina segment of the pipeline slightly to the west, based on survey results and the location of existing natural-gas infrastructure.

“The shift removed the need for the approximately 10-mile Clayton lateral,” Norvelle said.

That’s good news to George Singer, who is trying to sell his house in Clayton’s Walden neighborhood. In May, Dominion notified Singer and 26 of his neighbors that the proposed pipeline could cross their properties.

“It discouraged some buyers from purchasing the property, as we understand from our Realtor,” Singer said. “But we do have to be satisfied that it was only three months, because we were afraid it would drag out for years.”

Dominion recently mailed about 1,000 letters to North Carolina landowners, notifying them that their properties were within a 400-foot-wide survey corridor. Norvelle said surveyors are still in the field, and the company has not chosen a final route.

The Town of Clayton received a letter from Dominion saying the town’s Legend Park was in the possible pipeline path. The town was in the process of setting up a meeting with Dominion when the company took Clayton out of its equation.

Should the pipeline come to fruition, landowners along the route will receive financial compensation for the loss of their properties.

A map of the revised route, dated July 30, shows the pipeline flowing through central Johnston and seven other North Carolina counties. A previously proposed Fayetteville extension is not on the new map.

The Dominion proposal, titled the Southeast Reliability Project, is one of several that could double the volume of natural gas flowing into North Carolina from gas-producing regions.

Dominion is making its proposal in response to an April solicitation by Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas for a pipeline to serve new natural gas-fired power plants in North Carolina and possibly surrounding states. The two Charlotte utilities expect to select a proposal by late 2014.

While some homeowners were leery of the project, economic-development officials welcomed a new pipeline, saying it could provide fuel for local manufacturers and jobs for residents.

Chris Johnson, director of Johnston County’s economic-development office, said he doesn’t know how he would react if a pipeline went through his backyard. Still, he said, new energy options are a good thing.

“Natural gas is going to be key to the future of Johnston County, North Carolina and the United States,” Johnson said. “However we can do that effectively without disturbing the lives of property owners, we need to look at it.”

Dominion plans to meet with boards of commissioners, local leaders and other possible stakeholders this fall to discuss the project. The pipeline would require regulatory approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Staff writer John Murawski contributed.