Upshur to see tax boost from pipeline

BUCKHANNON — For the 22 miles of Atlantic Coast Pipeline expected to be built through Upshur County, the county will realize $11.5 million in taxes — about $1.6 million a year from 2019 to 2025, according to the company building the pipeline.

Mike Cozad, a community liaison with the ACP, said those numbers are what is being looked at in terms of tax revenue for Upshur County that ACP will pay on the pipeline.

Additionally, the ACP could employ 50 percent of its work force during the construction period from the local area.

While many workers will be far from home, community liaison Denise Campbell said it is hoped a good number will be from the surrounding area.

“There’s a lot of opportunity and potential,” she said.

Construction in Upshur County is expected to start around April 1, and there will be work in both 2018 and 2019. The 2018 phase will see work from the Buckhannon River southeast while the 2019 phase will be coming from Lewis County into Upshur County.

At a recent Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce meeting, Cozad said the company wants to hire 50 percent of its workers locally.

However, instead of open houses, the hiring will be done from union halls, Cozad said.

“That’s a big economic benefit I think to a lot of folks here,” he said. “The fact that some of the folks that may be unemployed or underemployed can get better paying jobs while we are here.

“This is going to create or support about 17,000 jobs during construction all up and down the line.”

Long-term, the ACP is supposed to support 2,200 jobs both direct pipeline jobs and then ancillary jobs.

“It’s not just the immediate jobs you see, but it’s the ones in other facets of the economy as well,” he said.

Campbell explained some of the background of the pipeline.

“It’s needed to transport natural gas and meet growth demands,” she said. “It helps with utilities, residential and commercial customers.

The project spans 600 miles from West Virginia, through Virginia and ending in North Carolina.

Upshur County and Randolph County will see activity in 2018 and 2019.

“There’s a lot of opportunity in our communities,” she said.

Campbell also discussed safety.

“Safety is first,” she said. “The goal is that everyone goes home safe. We really focus on being sure it is a safe project.”

“Everyone on the project has the authority to stop work,” she said. “If they see something that is unsafe, they have the authority to stop work. That’s important for the community to know that the number one goal is safety.”

Dominion Gas Control Center will provide 24-hour monitoring and there will be coordinated efforts with local emergency responders.

“The pipeline wells are X-rayed to ensure safety and we have rigorous federal and state testing protocols that will be conducted throughout this whole project,” she said

Cozad said about 82-83 percent of West Virginia landowners have signed right-of-way agreements.

“Many of them are large landowners or corporations or state and federal forests that those agreements have not been reached yet,” he said. “The number of landowners is not a large number but they own multiple tracts along the way.”

One question asked by Don Nestor was about how Upshur County benefited in the past from horizontal drilling.

“Is there a possibility in the future that wells here could access this pipeline?” he asked.

ACP advisory Ben Hardesty said, “I think the short answer is yes.”

Hardesty said the liquids that can be extracted from the gas could be used in West Virginia for manufacturing, but noted that 95 percent of the gas has been purchased.

“It’s not a ‘Build it and they will come,’” he said. “There are customers waiting on the gas.”

Brittany Moody, project engineer, said the pipeline is open access, but there are no access points planned in Upshur County at this point.

“On this current project, we don’t have any scheduled for Upshur County but there is one in Randolph County,” she said.

Open houses that were planned for January have been pushed back with no new date announced, which is why Cozad said ACP wanted to come to the chamber meeting to answer questions from the community.

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