2016-08-17 / Front Page

Permits more than a year away for local natural gas line

by Kate Shunney

A proposed natural gas distribution line for Morgan County could take another year to get through the regulatory process, according to county and pipeline officials.

In late March, Mountaineer Gas Company of West Virginia had asked the West Virginia Public Service Commission to approve 56.4 more miles of trunk distribution line in the Eastern Panhandle, including a spur through Morgan County. Gas company officials had asked that the request be approved by August 1.

But PSC spokeswoman Susan Small has said the state’s utility regulatory agency has not granted that approval. There is an evidentiary hearing set for October 5 for the line extension, said Small.

One segment of the proposed distribution line, according to Mountaineer Gas’ PSC application, would stretch 27.5 miles from a Columbia Gas Transmission line north of Morgan County to the northern end of Mountaineer Gas existing natural gas system in Martinsburg.

A natural gas pipeline does not yet exist on the northern boundary of Morgan County along the Potomac River.

Mountaineer Gas Senior Vice President Moses Skaff previously told The Morgan Messenger in a phone interview that Columbia Gas Pipeline would be responsible for creating that connection.

Columbia Gas Pipeline spokesman Scott Castleman said last week that his company must get approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to construct a lateral line off its existing system in Pennsylvania to connect to West Virginia. The existing line is located roughly along the Pennsylvania/Maryland border near Hancock.

Castleman said Columbia Pipeline Group has not submitted its application for that local connector line yet, and expects to do so next summer.

The line will have to cross or go under the Potomac River to connect to Mountaineer Gas’ proposed distribution line.

Mountaineer Gas officials didn’t respond to requests for comment on the project’s status.

Morgan County Commission President Brad Close said Monday that Mountaineer Gas officials recently told him the company is moving forward with the project, but will have to wait on the permit process, which will take it into 2017.

Close said Mountaineer Gas may begin building out their existing distribution lines in Berkeley County while they await permits to add Morgan County service. He said company officials continue to work with U.S. Silica to sketch out where natural gas facilities will be placed. Mountaineer Gas officials have said the natural gas line is designed to serve commercial and industrial customers, but could also serve residential areas if demand exists.

Route taking shape

Meanwhile, local residents have been contacted by Mountaineer Gas Company as they seek permission to run distribution lines across private property.

Natural gas distribution lines being proposed in Morgan County are six to 12 inches in diameter, and would be buried underground.

Mountaineer Gas hasn’t proposed a specific path for the new lines, but their PSC application outlines a route that would take the line across U.S. Silica property, then along Route 9 to Ridersville, along existing power line and CSX rights of way and into northeast Hedgesville.

Company officials had said they would keep the lines on existing rights of way as much as possible.

Property owners that own land in the proposed path of the gas line have received letters from the company saying the project could impact their land.

“We have completed the initial phase of project planning, including extensive route analysis and surveys of viable and efficient options for this Project. As a result, Mountaineer has identified the above-referenced property owner and/or used by you as likely to be on the route,” the letter says.

Property owners were told in late July that field surveys will continue and a land agent will contact them to negotiate an easement for the gas line project.

Close said two county residents who had concerns about the right of way process have contacted him, but their questions appeared to have been addressed by Mountaineer Gas representatives.

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