Cover Story

The family of Hazel Palmer (left) and her daughter, Denise Everhart, has owned land in Augusta County off the Blue Ridge Parkway for seven generations. The pipeline route would run on land behind Everhart’s home.

a pipeline,” she says. Palmer and other private landown-

ers filed suit against the ACP after their property was surveyed for the pipeline without their permission, which is legal under a controversial law in Virginia that was recently upheld by the state’s Supreme Court. After she initially refused permis- sion, Palmer said Dominion sued her, and she countersued. Palmer’s case contended that natural gas companies should not be allowed to survey private property with- out the landowner’s consent. A circuit court judge ruled against

Palmer in Staunton, and she appealed the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court. In July, the court upheld the constitutionality of Virginia’s survey law, which requires companies to notify landowners about plans and dates for surveying their lands. According to Palmer, pipeline crews

gas when the Greensville Power Plant is completed in December 2018. For Jim Kibler, president of Virginia


Natural Gas in Norfolk (a subsidiary of Southern Co. Gas), the pipeline can’t come fast enough. His utility serves 300,000 homes and busi- nesses in Hampton Roads, and he says it doesn’t have excess capacity. During a polar vortex

winter storm in 2014, Kibler says, the company shut off the region’s 100 largest industrial customers. “We had to shut them off for days so we could keep the heat on for schools, hospitals, nursing homes and residents.” While that was an extreme storm,

Kibler says the region needs an invest- ment in new infrastructure. “When the state brings us a prospect to locate here, we have not been able to compete with other regions where the pipeline system is less constrained. Whatever capacity we’ve been able to offer is on an interruptible basis. This customer signs up for service knowing that if we experience extreme weather, we have the right to interrupt their power.” Another area of concern is the ability

to convert large industrial customers to natural gas. The Newport News Ship- building division of Huntington Ingalls recently converted its steam-generation

28 AUGUST 2017

power plant from fuel oil to natural gas. Tom Cosgrove, the shipyard’s community relations manager, says the savings have been tremendous. In 2016, the first year the shipyard fully transitioned to natural gas, costs for fuel, labor and maintenance came to $4 million, an 80 percent drop from the $20 million spent in 2013, the last year the shipyard relied solely on oil. “As more companies are looking to

make that change, the infrastructure needs to be there to support it,” says Cosgrove.

The case against the ACP Personal property rights, public need

and Virginia’s plans to protect water quality have emerged as key points of opposition. Hazel Palmer’s family has owned

land in Augusta County off the Blue Ridge Parkway for seven generations. “My great grandfather bought it in 1880. So we’ve had it for 137 years,” she says. Palmer, an 84-year-old widow now liv- ing in Lynchburg, has fond memories of visiting her grandparents and parents, who lived on 125 acres across from the parkway in Lyndhurst. Today, Palmer’s daughter lives on the

land in a log home at the top of a hill over- looking a scenic mountain ridge. Accord- ing to Palmer, the ACP’s route runs about 1,000 feet from the rear of her daughter’s home, close to the ridge. “It just makes me ill that they’re going to come through with

would clear about a 125-foot-wide construction corridor across 110 acres of her land, with a 50-foot easement taken for the pipeline’s permanent right of way. With a gas pipeline on her property, she’s afraid she won’t be able to sell the land in the future. “If there’s a leak, I worry about what that would do.”

Pubic need “There is no doubt that we can keep

the lights on in Virginia without the pipeline,” says the SELC’s Cleveland. On behalf of a coalition of eight environmen- tal groups, SELC filed a motion in June with FERC seeking an evidentiary hear- ing on the public need for the pipeline. Such hearings include testimony and cross-examination, which could delay FERC’s decision. With increased energy efficiency

and the availability of solar and wind alternatives, the coalition claims that justification for the project has eroded in the three years since it was proposed in September 2014. The motion also challenges agree-

ments that Dominion and Duke Energy have with subsidiaries. In essence the companies are contracting with them- selves, says Greg Buppert, the SELC senior attorney who filed the motion. “That’s not an arm’s length transaction that actually reflects what’s going on in the market.” “In other words,” the motion says,

Photo by Mark Rhodes

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