Meetings scheduled on gas pipeline through North Carolina

JONATHAN DREW, Associated Press

Energy companies that want to build a natural gas pipeline through several North Carolina counties plan to hold public meetings on the project this week in the state.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Energy companies that want to build a natural gas pipeline through several North Carolina counties plan to hold public meetings on the project this week in the state.

The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run 550 miles from West Virginia and Virginia before ending in North Carolina's Robeson County.

A consortium of energy companies led by Dominion Resources Inc. is holding public meetings Tuesday in Fayetteville, Wednesday in Smithfield and Thursday in Jackson. Other meetings will be held in January in Virginia and West Virginia.

Dominion says the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will also lead public meetings on the proposed pipeline before the commission receives a formal application for the project. The pipeline would need FERC approval to proceed.

A map of the proposed route shows that it would run through Northampton, Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland and Robeson counties, roughly parallel in many places to Interstate 95.

Dominion would own 45 percent of the joint venture behind the pipeline, while Duke Energy Corp. would own 40 percent and other partners would have smaller stakes.

Dominion says the pipeline will make it easier to deliver natural gas from shale basins in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to growing markets in North Carolina and Virginia.

The company says construction of the pipeline will bring jobs to the state, and once it's in service by late 2018, it should alleviate spikes in gas prices that can happen during winter.

The project has faced opposition from some landowners in Virginia who have attempted to prevent the company from surveying on their land along the route. The company has sought court orders against more than 40 landowners in two counties.

There appears to be less opposition by landowners in North Carolina. Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle said in an email that 86 percent of the owners of 1,250 parcels along the route in North Carolina have already given the company permission to survey.

The company has filed legal action against three landowners in Cumberland County and two in Nash County "that have steadfastly refused to grant us permission to survey," Norvelle said. But the company doesn't expect that step to be necessary with any other landowners in the state.

The company says on its website that laws in all three states give it the right to survey private land, but that it "will continue to work with the landowner until an agreement is reached or a court order is obtained affirming Dominion's legal right to survey."

Once the route is finalized, Dominion will negotiate easement agreements that include compensation for landowners. The company says it reaches agreements in nearly all cases, but: "Eminent domain is an action of last resort."

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