Disputed pipeline route may change
But the two still disagreed on the facts of the dispute in an exchange of letters to state and federal regulators this week.
Piedmont says it never knew the Davidson College Ecological Preserve existed until the college fired off a strong objection to the pipeline. The planned pipeline will need a permanent easement 70 feet wide.
Davidson points out that, despite Piedmont’s pledge to consider alternatives, the utility asked regulators this week to grant permits based on the original route.
Davidson issued an objection to the project last month, accusing Piedmont of withholding information about the pipeline’s route for more than 18 months. The college said the proposed route would devastate the preserve, a 200-acre mix of pines and hardwoods that for years has been a focus of biological research.
In a letter this week to state and federal environmental regulators, Piedmont said that Davidson’s complaint included “numerous inaccuracies” but that the two are talking about alternative routes.
“But then, they ask the regulators to go ahead and issue permits for the flawed route that Davidson College objects to,” the college said in a statement Wednesday. Davidson says that on Feb. 16, it showed Piedmont officials and regulators an alternate route, following existing pipelines, which would minimize damage to the preserve.
Piedmont said the company just wants to avoid restarting the permitting process for stream and wetland impacts. The permit applications could be amended if a new route through college property is picked, said spokesman David Trusty.
“Nobody should misinterpret our desire to find a route that meets both our objectives,” Trusty said.
Piedmont says neither the company nor its environmental consultant, S&ME, had ever heard of the ecological preserve until Davidson filed its complaints last month.
The company says it adjusted the route to avoid two other preserves, owned by Mecklenburg County and the Catawba Lands Conservancy. College officials, Piedmont said, never mentioned their preserve.
Otherwise, the company said, “Piedmont would have engaged in the very efforts it is now undertaking to minimize impact” to the Davidson preserve.
Piedmont said it intends to divert the pipeline around a stream within the preserve where research into reptiles and amphibians is conducted. Its consultant said a rare plant the college had cited as potentially threatened, the dwarf-flowered heartleaf, has never been documented in Mecklenburg.
Utility: College had data
Piedmont also disputed Davidson’s claim that the college had been denied information on the pipeline route. The company says it told the college in 2010 that the line would likely cross Davidson property and that the college objected.
“In summary, Piedmont never deliberately misled Davidson College or any other landowner about its intent, process, timeline or pipeline routing,” the company wrote.
The 8-mile line would be part of a 133-mile pipeline by which Piedmont would serve Progress Energy’s Sutton power plant near Wilmington. Sutton will be converted from a coal-fired plant to one fueled by natural gas.
Piedmont has applied for permits from the N.C. Division of Water Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Last month it asked for permission from the N.C. Utilities Commission.
About the Pipeline:
- Location: Iredell County, Mecklenburg County, Cabarrus County, Anson County, Richmond County, Scotland County, Robeson County, Bladen County, Columbus County, Brunswick County, and New Hanover County
- Length: Approximately 128 miles
- Pipe Size: 120 miles of 20-inch pipe, 8 miles of 30-inch pipe
- Source of Gas Supply: Williams Transco
- Start Date: Spring 2011
- Completion Date: Summer 2013