Monday, November 10, 2014

Officials question pipeline benefit / Poultry study spurs interest, concerns

 Officials question pipeline benefit / Poultry study spurs interest, concerns

Officials question pipeline benefit

Star-Tribune Editor | Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 8:59 am

The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors peppered an EQT Corp. and NextEra Energy representative with questions during a presentation on the companies’ proposed Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline Monday night in Chatham.

The 330-mile pipeline would run from Wetzel County, W. Va., through southwest Virginia to Pittsylvania County and connect with Williams’ Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company’s compressor station in Chatham.

The pipeline, estimated to cost $3 billion to $3.5 billion, would pass through 16 counties in West Virginia and Virginia, including Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin, and Pittsylvania counties.

Natalie Cox, a spokesman with EQT in Pittsburgh, Pa., said the project includes 15 to 20 miles of pipeline and about 120 landowners in Pittsylvania County.

Cox said companies are seeking permission to walk properties and stake the proposed pipeline route.

EQT and NextEra representative Chris Sherman gave supervisors an overview of the pipeline project Monday night. It was the first public presentation; earlier, the companies met privately with one to two supervisors to avoid triggering a public meeting as required under Virginia’s Freedom of Information law.

According to Sherman, preliminary surveying is underway with a final route expected in April or May of 2015.

Westover District Supervisor Coy Harville questioned how many local jobs the pipeline will bring.

“I don’t hear anything where you will create jobs in Pittsylvania County,” the veteran supervisor said.

Sherman said the pipeline is expected to create 3,000 jobs in Virginia, mostly during construction, and the companies try to use local labor when available.

Harville asked for proof.

Staunton River District Supervisor Elton Blackstock wondered whether the pipeline would supply natural gas for economic development in the county.

Transco’s natural gas pipeline, built in the late 1940s, cuts through the heart of the county, but provides no local natural gas distribution.

“I think its paramount we don’t make the mistakes we made in the past,” Blackstock said.

“With the amount of natural gas coming in this county, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have access. We need to hold their feet to the fire and get on top of this.”

Sherman said local access points are possible along the pipeline, especially if installed during construction. Once the high-pressure pipeline is in operation it becomes more difficult and expensive to tap into the line.

The proposed pipeline also generated questions and concerns from the public.

Karen Maute, a well-known local advocate for the environment, wondered whether the pipeline might disturb uranium deposits, especially those close to the surface.

“I’m hoping you will watch this very closely,” she said.

Mara Robbins, a Floyd County resident and representative of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and Piedmont Residents in Defense of the Environment, also addressed supervisors.

Robbins accused EQT and NextEra of violating landowners’ property rights and expressed concerns about the effects of the pipeline on insurance and mortgage rates.
“Many landowners feel their rights have been compromised because they don’t get to decide,” she said.

Robbins said the pipeline will mean little benefit to the area and few local jobs because pipeline construction is highly specialized work.

She also cited concerns about air pollution, alleging natural gas compressor stations emit formaldehyde.

Robbins asked for an environmental impact study on Williams’ Chatham compressor station, which is the end point for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The pipeline will be governed by the U.S. Natural Gas Act, which requires a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before construction can begin.

The FERC review and approval takes 10 to 12 months, and will involve a series of community information meetings, including one in Chatham in December.

Construction of the 36-inch to 42-inch diameter steel pipeline is scheduled to begin in late 2016 and take two years.

The pipeline, which will buried at least three feet underground, will require approximately 75 feet of permanent easement and 125 feet of total easement for temporary work space.

Landowners are entitled to fair compensation for having the pipeline on their land, and the companies said eminent domain — a legal taking of land — is a last resort.

Company officials said the pipeline will be equipped with remote-controlled shut-off valves and will be monitored 24 hours a day through EQT’s gas control center.

For more information, visit or call 844-MVP-Talk.


Poultry study spurs interest, concerns

Star-Tribune Editor | Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 8:56 am

A chicken processing plant could employ 1,200 people and bring more than $300 million in investment to the region, according to a consulting firm working on an integrated poultry industry study for Pittsylvania County.

Despite the economic benefits, however, some residents are concerned about a poultry complex’s impact on water and air quality and public services, including schools.

The county held two meetings last week — one for farmers interested in becoming chicken contract growers and a second for the general public.

About 125 people from five counties attended the first meeting and around 50 were at the second.

Both meetings took place at the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex in Chatham.

Both presentations included a presentation followed by a question-and-answer session and survey to provide more input on the ongoing poultry study, said Fred Wydner III, the county’s director of agricultural development.

The meetings were part of a study funded by the state and county to determine the feasibility of bringing an integrated poultry industry to the county.

The county put up $5,000 in cash and $5,000 in in-kind services and received a matching $10,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund to fund the $20,000 poultry study.

A poultry complex would include a hatchery, feed mill, processing plant, and approximately 100 contract growers within about a 50-mile radius of the feed mill and processing plant.
The study will take into account infrastructure, workforce, environmental impact, potential contract grower base, and public acceptance, Wydner said.

According to Wydner, the county’s Agriculture Development Board identified poultry as a potential opportunity for increased employment and income.

The county already has about a half dozen chicken houses that raise birds in various stages for the poultry industry.

Wydner said the study will look at what poultry companies are expanding, how and where a poultry complex could be located, and what is attractive to the industry.

The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

County Administrator Clarence Monday said the purpose of the study is to determine if the poultry industry would be a good fit for the county.

“Nothing is a done deal,” Monday said. “The only thing the county has done is put together a feasibility study.”

The county looked at a chicken processing plant in Chatham in the late 1980s, but eventually abandoned the project.

Burt Bock with BR Bock Consulting Inc., which is conducting the study, said poultry offers farmers a way to diversify.

According to Bock, a chicken processing facility would cost about $140 million

A separate feed mill would require 25-50 acres and access to rail.

The consultants stressed that the poultry industry is highly regulated, and processing plants, which use 300,000 to 500,000 gallons of water a day, have their own wastewater treatment plants.

The consultants said modern poultry houses and processing plants produce little odor and observe strict setback restrictions from wells and property lines.

Lawton concurred. “It affects the whole community because money does trickle down,” he said.

Monday said the county welcomes public input on the study. The county administrator encouraged residents to contact supervisors or speak at board meetings.

“The Board of Supervisors is taking this very seriously,” he said.

Karen Maute, an outspoken advocate for the environment in the county, questioned the purpose of the study.

“It seems more like you’re selling integrated poultry rather than conducting a feasibility study,” she said.