As construction begins on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, many are curious about how the ACP is taking steps to minimize land and environmental impacts, while making sure each landowner feels heard and is satisfied with the final outcome.
EnergySure was fortunate to spend time with the ACP Vice President of Pipeline Construction, Leslie Hartz, to get the facts directly from the source. We covered topics ranging from landowner voices and safety, to the environment and renewable energy, as well as the ACP team’s overall commitment to maintaining itself as a good neighbor in the eyes of all involved. Read on to hear from Leslie herself, as we walk through what went on behind the scenes as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline plans were developed.
EnergySure: Leslie, can you start by telling us how the route for a project like this is developed?
Leslie: Sure. When we start drafting the route, the primary goal is to ensure the least environmental impact. Initially, you want a straight line because that's the shortest distance. We start at that point and then we do our in-depth study of the route to identify environmental and cultural resources along the route that need to be avoided. We'll survey for species – plant species, animal species, bird species, bee species, and the like.
We'll also do surveys for cultural and historic resources – those things we really don't want to disturb – and we'll adjust the route to avoid those. Then of course, we'll work with the landowners. The landowner knows their property best. We really want to gain that information from the landowners to know what sensitive resources are on their property.
EnergySure: Tell us a little bit more from a routing perspective, how are landowners involved in the planning process?
Leslie: Landowners were involved from day one. As I indicated, it's really important for us to get the landowner's input on those sensitive areas on their property. Even things like, they may have a barn that they prefer be on one side versus another. We work with them at that level of detail.
They're involved all the way until the end. Our land agents who are the primary point of contact with the landowners, we say they are the first ones involved and they're the last ones to leave. They're involved in the entire process.
EnergySure: That's great. In your experience, how does a landowner's perception change during that process?
Leslie: Well, truthfully, it is probably a bit intimidating to know that you've got a pipeline coming through your property, so we sit down, listen to their concerns and work with them. I'd say, by and large, we're successful in doing that and resolving their concerns.
We want to be a good neighbor. This is our backyard. This is where we do business. This is where our employees work and live. This is our neighborhood, so it's really important to us.
EnergySure: Excellent. And how will the ACP project team ensure that environmental resources are protected during construction?
Leslie: We have a number of measures in place. First of all, we have environmental inspectors all along the route. They are well versed on all of the environmental regulations, the erosion, and sedimentation controls.
This project is gone through a tremendous review on its environmental impacts. As I mentioned earlier, the amount of surveying we do is enormous. We go to great lengths to minimize that impact, not only in the design, but in construction, and then ultimately, operations.
EnergySure: Dominion has just announced a huge wind project. Obviously, a lot of folks would love to see more and more renewables. How does the ACP tie into that movement?
Leslie: It's very complimentary with renewables. For those times when the sun's not shining and the wind's not blowing, we can provide gas to provide that energy source as a backup. We view it very much as a compatible source with the renewable energy.
EnergySure: Last, but certainly not least, tell me about ACP’s commitment to safety.
Leslie: Commitment to safety is our top priority. Obviously, it's for the safety of our employees, our contractors and the public, so it is job one. We have strong safety programs. We go beyond the regulations in terms of what's required in constructing the pipeline.
Every weld is X-rayed. We take all measures to know that when that pipe goes in the ground, it is intact and will serve its useful purpose for its useful life. And then we back that up with inspections during operations to monitor, to ensure that integrity.