NEW CASTLE – Craig County Administrator Clay Goodman informed the Board of Supervisors during its February meeting Thursday that a sizeable corridor within the county limits is being considered as a potential construction area for Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC.
The proposed pipeline, which is awaiting approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), would span nearly 300 miles from Wetzel County, W.Va., to a Transcontinental Gas and Pipeline Company compressor station in Pittsylvania County. The approximately 36-42-inch diameter underground pipes would circulate natural gas to local distribution companies, industrial users and power companies in the Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern markets.
Goodman told the board he had just learned of Craig’s potential inclusion into the pipeline’s route when he spoke with an EQT representative early last week. He said the pipeline’s currently proposed path goes through neighboring Monroe County, W.Va., and Giles County, and the corridor being considered in Craig lies in the western portion of the county near the Giles border.
Goodman said the EQT representative also had a lengthy conversation with Craig Commissioner of Revenue Elizabeth Huffman, and he had extended an invitation for an EQT representative to speak with the board that evening, which was declined. He said he had also invited a representative to attend the board’s March 5 meeting, when supervisors as well as the public could ask further questions.
Goodman said details were limited last week, but the proposed pipeline corridor in Craig would travel through Jefferson National Forest and likely have to cross several private properties.
“I would assume that citizens will be getting letters,” said Goodman, adding that he requested EQT inform each supervisor whose districts could be affected before the letters were sent.
If the route including Craig is approved by FERC later this year, Goodman said the pipeline would be constructed regardless of the county’s wishes.
“If FERC approves the pipeline, it goes in whether you want it or not,” he said. “You do not have decision-making authority in this process, since it would be approved at the federal level.”
Due to eminent domain laws in Virginia, Goodman added that the companies could survey private property without the consent of its owner. According to state code, the company would have to request permission from a property owner; however, company officials could inspect private properties if permission is not granted by 15 days prior to the proposed surveying date.
Goodman said he had not yet communicated with FERC or the National Forest Service concerning the pipeline; however, the board directed Goodman to send a copy of its comprehensive plan to the National Forest Service to stress the importance of Jefferson National Forest to local tourism efforts.
Goodman distributed a map to each board member providing a rough indication of the proposed survey areas in Craig. Chairman Fred Craft commented that the potential survey area made up “about a quarter of the county.”
Vice Chairwoman Martha Murphy said the actual corridor that would be installed would likely be a 300-foot wide strip that would be maintained by pipeline company employees. Board members agreed that they needed a personal meeting with an EQT representative in order to find out more details and the specific locations being considered.
Goodman pointed out that from an economic standpoint, the county would be unlikely to reap benefits like employment opportunities if the pipeline is constructed there, since maintenance workers would likely be outsourced.
“In my opinion, I see no benefit from the pipeline going through Craig County,” said Goodman.
If approved, construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline would begin in December 2016 and it would be operational by late 2018, according to www.mountainvalleypipeline.info.
In other action, the Craig County Board of Supervisors:
- Approved special exception permits for U.S. Cellular to construct two cell towers following public hearings. The first will be located on the property of Robert and Barbara Robertson on Hall Road in Catawba. The other will be located on the property of David and Jane-Ellen Hess near the intersection of Rt. 311 and Jockeymore Dr. in New Castle. The setback on this tower was reduced from 199 to 80 feet from an adjoining property line.
- Voted to disband the Craig County Beautification Committee. In December 2014, Committee Chairman Jim Holtman had requested the group be disbanded due to lack of membership and project ideas. On Thursday, the board approved a resolution that disbanded the committee but will allow its members to join the Craig County Tourism Committee. Money that had been donated by the community to the beautification committee will now be transferred to the tourism committee, but will be designated for projects that relate to county beautification efforts.