Clayton neighbors may be in path of pipeline

ndunn@newsobserver.comJuly 11, 2014 

— George Singer’s home is nestled deeply in the quiet Walden neighborhood, in between tall pine trees and among thickets that hide cardinals and yellow jacket nests.

He has enjoyed his home, which he bought in 1994, but is now looking to sell.

After putting the house on the market last year, nothing happened. So in May, he and his wife, Frances, chose a different real-estate agent. About that time, the couple received a letter from Dominion Resources about a major natural-gas pipeline that could run through their property.

A surveyor came out a few weeks later and tied orange flags in a line in the woods behind the Singers’ home. George said the odds of finding a buyer now are slim.

“I cannot conceivably think of anyone who would make an offer on a house that has survey flags 50 feet from the back deck,” he said.

Several residents in Walden have received letters about the Dominion pipeline, which, as proposed, would follow the Interstate 95 corridor from West Virginia to North Carolina. The pipeline could have several lateral extensions, including one that runs through Clayton to Raleigh.

Dominion has made it clear that its plans are preliminary, and spokesman Jim Norvelle said the company has not decided if it will build the pipeline.

But the company is surveying properties within a 400-foot-wide study corridor. In mid-May, Dominion mailed 1,000 letters to North Carolina landowners, notifying them of the surveying work.

“Just because your land is being surveyed does not mean that we may begin negotiations with you to build a pipeline on your property,” Norvelle said in an interview on Monday.

The Dominion pipeline proposal is one of several that could double the volume of natural gas flowing into North Carolina from gas-producing regions.

Norvelle said Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas are interested in buying natural gas from out of state, but Dominion could also find other customers along the pipeline route. Some of those customers could be in Johnston County, one of nine North Carolina counties included in the preliminary route.

Johnston leaders say an increased supply of natural gas would be a draw for manufacturers that are thinking about coming to the county. But Alsey Gilbert, another Walden resident, said he has concerns about the pipeline proposals.

“It sounds mighty fishy to me,” Gilbert said, adding that it was unsettling to receive a letter about surveying when little information about the pipeline has been released.

North Carolina law says that with a 30-day notice, pipeline companies can go on private property for surveying purposes.

“While we do not need permission, we always try to obtain it,” Norvelle said.

A letter Dominion sent to the the Town of Clayton noted that surveying was scheduled to begin about June 15. The letter also restated that the surveying route might not reflect a final route.

“For that, we will seek a separate easement agreement from all affected property owners prior to construction,” the letter stated, adding that Dominion could settle on a route by year’s end.

Among town-owned properties, the pipeline could affect Legend Park on City Road. The town says it has contacted Dominion about setting up a meeting to learn more information about the project.

Town Manager Steve Biggs, who also lives in Walden, said while natural gas is important to a growing economy, it’s equally important to thoroughly inform citizens.

“This process really isn’t very inclusive and open, and that causes people to have a negative reaction,” Biggs said.

If Dominion decides to pursue the project, the company must submit an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The application process includes multiple opportunities for public comment.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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