NASHVILLE — Hundreds of Wilson and Nash property owners filled the Nash Agriculture Center Tuesday for the first landowner-organized meeting for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.
Charles Lollar, a Virginia attorney specializing in eminent domain cases, said that the 550-mile pipeline will likely be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but urged landowners to use caution when signing easement agreements.
If FERC approves the project, Dominion Resources will be granted the power of eminent domain, which allows the seizure of land for the project because it is viewed as a public necessity. The natural gas pipeline will have the capacity to transport 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day that will originate from the Marcellus and Utica shale basins in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The pipeline is planned to extend from West Virginia through North Carolina, including areas in Wilson and Nash counties.
“The problem I have with this process is this is not government,” Lollar said. “Once they get the certificate of public necessity and convenience they’re going to have the power to acquire an easement over private property in North Carolina instantly, and I’ve got a problem with that. I’ve got a real problem with it being involuntary. They take it against your will, and you’ve got one opportunity to get compensated for it.”
Most easement offers could be close to $10,000, which Lollar said is not the fair market value or equal to what Dominion Resources and other energy companies will make off the system once it’s in operation.
“The problem is, in the real world most of the values and most of the offers are well below fair market value,” he said. “They’re offering property owners like you less than what you’re entitled to receive.”
Lollar, who keeps busy in practice by representing clients in eminent domain and property rights’ cases, also said that landowners need to make sure eminent domain agreements don’t include other possible uses for the area of easement.
He’s seen documents include other uses including petroleum, oil and other substances. He also said larger pipelines can be added in the ground than originally planned.
“What they install now can change,” he said. “It’s not what you see. It’s what’s in the easement document.”
Lollar said the North Carolina pipeline, proposed at 36 inches in diameter, will likely include a total easement area of about 120 feet wide and a permanent easement area of 50 to 60 feet wide.
Lollar believes the natural gas may not offer any benefit to West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. He said the natural gas could potentially be sent through other natural gas lines to the Port of Hampton Roads.
“It’s going to be transported all over the United States and overseas,” Lollar said. “In all likelihood, they’re going to liquefy this gas and send it overseas.”
Dominion and Duke Energy officials have said that the pipeline will provide an expanded source of gas that will help fuel economic development across the region as businesses and homes rely more on natural gas. Officials have also said that the pipeline will create a new source of natural gas for the companies, some which supply natural gas to North Carolina. The line will have three interconnections for Piedmont Natural Gas and will provide a second source for the company that will not have to solely rely on North Carolina’s only other pipeline that provides natural gas from the Gulf Coast.
Dave Scanzoni, Duke Energy spokesman, said in September that second pipeline will help to alleviate price spikes, similar to ones that occurred during last winter’s “polar vortex,” which increased prices 20 to 25 percent.
Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources, plan to build the pipeline at a $4.5 billion to $5 billion estimated cost, following state and federal regulatory approvals. Richmond, Va.-based Dominion has agreed to build and operate the interstate natural gas pipeline.
The pipeline’s main customers are Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress, Virginia Power Services Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, Virginia Natural Gas and PSNC Energy that collectively will purchase 92 percent of the pipeline’s capacity.
Carolyn Nelefant, a Washington, D.C., attorney who previously worked for FERC, was also at the meeting and provided information about the federal regulatory process.