Utility says proposed 3-state pipeline will mean cheaper power for NC residents near project

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — A proposed $5 billion, three-state natural gas pipeline should result in less-expensive power for eastern North Carolina residents living close to its path once it's completed, an official from the utility building and operating the pipeline told state lawmakers Tuesday.

Bruce McKay, a government affairs executive with Dominion Resources, made his remarks while laying out the federal and state regulatory process to an energy policy committee. Dominion hopes to start constructing the pipeline in late 2018.

Dominion, Duke Energy and two natural gas companies will co-own the proposed 550-mile pipeline originating in West Virginia and running through Virginia. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would enter North Carolina in Northampton County and largely follow Interstate 95's path southwest until the project's terminus in Robeson County.

McKay said the project will help attract companies interested in building or expanding in regions near the pipeline, as well as utility companies looking to operate electric power plants more cleanly or to offer natural gas to customers.

"If you're buying power from your local electric utility that is burning natural gas to generate that power, you're going to have a more stable supply — and we're pretty sure cheaper supply — of natural gas, and that will convert into lower-priced power," McKay said.

An overall increase in the supply of natural gas also could mean lower natural-gas rates for those who use it directly to heat their homes and businesses. North Carolina's other natural gas line runs southwest to northeast through central counties.

Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, who represents parts of three counties all in the pipeline's expected path, said local residents are anxious.

Landowners have been alerted that their acreage could be subject to right-of-way easements where 3-foot-wide piping ultimately would be buried. Newton suggested to McKay that Dominion focus on the benefits to utility customers' wallets.

"There's a lot of talk of, 'Oh, this is going to benefit a lot of big corporations and make them a bunch of money, but why do we have to lose our land?'" Newton told McKay.

McKay said the company is developing detailed projections about the pipeline's effect upon power rates. He also cited a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report showing there's no consistent information suggesting that natural gas pipeline easements decrease nearby property values.

Landowners subject to easements will be compensated for the use of their land. Some acreage could continue to be used for its original purposes, such as agriculture.

Dominion Resources, which owns 45 percent of the project, released projections this week showing that North Carolina counties and municipalities along the route could receive $6 million annually in property taxes from the pipeline. An economic analysis also projects pipeline construction would generate an average of $113 million in economic activity and nearly 750 jobs annually, according to Dominion.

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