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Natural gas pipeline project moving forward in Eastern Panhandle

By Danyel VanReenen

The Journal of Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.  — Natural gas companies with an interest in constructing a pipeline through the Eastern Panhandle are making the necessary applications to advance the project.

Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC, applied for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on March 15. The approval would authorize the construction of a new eight inch pipeline extending approximately 3.4 miles from an existing 20 inch line in Fulton County, Pennsylvania to a site in Morgan County.

The proposed pathway of the pipeline would cross through Washington County, Maryland, and travel under the Potomac River before ending in Morgan County.

“(Columbia Gas Transmission) respectfully requests that the Commission issue this authorization on or before January 1, 2018, so that Columbia can achieve its targeted in-service date of Nov. 1, 2018,” the application states.

The four-volume application states the expected project would provide an additional 47.5 dekatherms per day of capacity for firm transportation service to markets in West Virginia through Mountaineer Gas Company’s gathering system.

This application for a 3.4 mile pipeline proposal is part of a bigger pipeline plan for the Eastern Panhandle area.

Mountaineer Gas has also proposed a three phase plan to expand their service area in the Eastern Panhandle. Phase one — costing approximately $30 million — proposes the construction of an approximately 24 mile natural gas transmission line beginning in Morgan County and extending to Martinsburg.

Allegedly, the pipeline will allow for the provision of adequate, efficient, safe, reliable and reasonably priced natural gas service, according to a document on the West Virginia Public Service Commission website.

Eric Degruyter, a technical analyst at the WV Public Service Commission, said phase two includes a loop to Charles Town. He said phase three is a four mile segment of pipeline to Martinsburg.

According to Degruyter, Mountaineer Gas is currently in the process of acquiring rights of way for construction and completing environmental studies and other studies necessary to obtain permission to construct an interstate pipeline that will drill under the Potomac River and the C&O Canal.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission approved phase one of Mountaineer Gas’ proposal in November 2016.

Degruyter said Mountaineer proposed the project to accommodate more customers, specifically large industries and commercial operations like Procter and Gamble, which is in the process of building in Martinsburg.

“The current system is supplied by Washington Gas Light Company and the Eastern Panhandle) is currently at capacity,” Degruyter said. “Mountaineer was getting to a point where they were going to have to start refusing customers. The key is to get added capacity.”

Although the driving factor was commercial and industrial expansion, Degruyter said home owners and residential locations may qualify to tie into the new gas lines as well.

“My guess — and it’s just a guess — is that several hundred residentials would be eligible to possibly connect,” Degruyter said. “There are limits to how far a place can be from the line to hook up.”

Mountaineer’s proposal is dependent upon the Columbia Gas Transmission line for gas supply. Columbia Gas has requested a response from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by January 2018.

According to Degruyter, Mountaineer expects construction to finish in 2018 if approved.

Staff writer Danyel VanReenen can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 131, or on Twitter @DVanReenenJN.

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