Pipeline is protested
By Greg Edwards

30 May 2003

Floyd officials, residents seek new hearing

People in Floyd County are unhappy with the way a federal agency decided to approve a natural-gas pipeline through their Blue Ridge Mountain landscape.

The Floyd County Board of Supervisors and a group of county citizens have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a rehearing of the commission's April 9 decision to approve a pipeline. The project is planned by a subsidiary of Dominion Resources Inc. of Richmond.

The county board and the Floyd Unified Landowners' Association say a required environmental study of the proposed pipeline, which FERC used in its decision-making, did not give adequate attention to Floyd County's fragile groundwater situation.

"The studies reviewed and adopted by FERC provide, at best, a cursory review of the hydrogeology of the Floyd County area and the groundwater recharge instability.

The potential environmental impact to the county has not be adequately weighed," the county told the federal agency this month.

The county and citizen group said the environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline project does not address specific concerns that pipeline construction and blasting will hurt county groundwater supplies.

Specifics of the Floyd situation were ignored in favor of general, academic discussions of blasting and geology, the county said.

Greenbrier Pipeline Co. LLC plans to build a 280-mile natural-gas pipeline from Kanawha County, W.Va., to Granville County, N.C., that will slice through Floyd and six other Virginia counties.

Dominion owns two-thirds of the pipeline company, and Piedmont Natural Gas, of Charlotte, N.C., owns the rest.

In addition to further groundwater studies, Floyd supervisors have asked that FERC require Greenbrier Pipeline to post a $250,000 bond to cover the cost of any damage to county groundwater supplies caused by pipeline construction.

The county board said it was not its intent "to halt or unnecessarily delay the pipeline project."

Bob Fulton, a Dominion spokesman, said Greenbrier had conducted a groundwater study that showed the pipeline would do no harm. FERC agreed that further study of the groundwater issue is not needed, he said. Greenbrier yesterday told FERC that it opposes a rehearing. The company's efforts to address water concerns have gone beyond what is typical for a pipeline project, Fulton said.

John Rife, a Radford lawyer representing Floyd County, said the supervisors have asked for the assistance of FERC's dispute-resolution service. The county is hoping to continue talks with the company, he said.

The citizen group has also complained to FERC that Greenbrier changed the method it will use to cross two county streams without getting proper input from the public. And the group said a new prefiling process used by FERC in considering the Greenbrier project did not provide residents with adequate information or give enough consideration to residents' concerns.

Tamara Young-Allen, a FERC spokeswoman, said it is not unusual for the commission to grant a request for a rehearing. FERC could grant a re-hearing to discuss a specific issue, she said. If FERC does not respond to the requests before mid-June, they are automatically denied.

Contact Greg Edwards at (804) 649-6390 or gedwards@timesdispatch.com

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