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Dominion Surveys Alternative Pipeline Route

MAP: Dominion Energy and its partners are surveying an alternative route for part of the controversial Atlantic Coast natural-gas pipeline. The current path is in blue, the alternative in black. Map submitted by Dominion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
MAP: Dominion Energy and its partners are surveying an alternative route for part of the controversial Atlantic Coast natural-gas pipeline. The current path is in blue, the alternative in black. Map submitted by Dominion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
February 19, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. - Dominion Energy and its partners say they are surveying an alternative route for part of the controversial Atlantic Coast natural-gas pipeline. Opponents say it's not an improvement. The new route would send the 42-inch pipeline south of the current proposed path in Randolph and Pocahontas counties of West Virginia and in Highland County, Virginia.

Rick Webb, coordinator with the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, says the alternative route would miss some environmentally-sensitive areas. But he says it would send the pipeline through land that's more cut up, harder and riskier to build in and it would cross more difficult waterways.

"It would involve crossing the Greenbrier River just south of Cass," says Webb. "It would cross the Jackson River and Back Creek in Virginia, where the rivers are much larger than the previous route would have crossed."

The $5 billion, 550-mile pipeline would carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas a day from northern West Virginia as far as North Carolina. Dominion says it would lower natural-gas prices, which should create jobs.

The new route would go nearer to Snowshoe ski resort. It would avoid much of the Monongahela National Forest but go through more national forest land in Virginia. Beth Little with the Eight Rivers Council in Pocahontas County says Forest Service rules might actually be behind the new path.

"Not having an alternative is violating national forest regulation," says Webb. "They might have to throw out an alternative just to satisfy that and still pick their preferred route."

The pipeline has provoked intense opposition from Virginia landowners. The old route would cross Pen Goodall's sheep farm, which straddles the state border. He's being sued for refusing to allow Dominion surveyors onto his land, but says he'd rather go to jail than let them survey.

"I'm going to stand my ground because it will just totally destroy everything I have ever done," Goodall says. "My farm has around 32 springs on it, and creeks and once it's gone, it's gone."

According to Webb, the company is having trouble getting the pipeline approved, but he says it doesn't seem to care much what landowners such as Goodall think.

"I don't think public opinion is the problem," Webb says. "It's the legal issues. Some of these landscapes have protections. Dominion is going to have problems. It's not going to be able to circumvent dealing with these issues."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA