Potential pipeline bidder opts out

First Posted: 8/13/2014

LUMBERTON — One of the companies that was considering the construction of an interstate natural gas pipeline that would extend into Robeson County has announced that it is putting its plans on hold.

The pipeline is expected to run from Pennsylvania to North Carolina through Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. The decision by Houston, Texas-based Spectra Energy does not mean the pipeline will not be built by another company.

Attempts by The Robesonian to contact a Spectra Energy spokesman were unsuccessful, but according to WRAL-TV, Spectra spokesman Arthur Diestel told The Daily Progress newspaper of Charlottesville, Va., in an email that the company is suspending its development work on the proposed project. Diestel also reportedly said in his email that Spectra, a pipeline builder and operator, will “continue to evaluate opportunities in the region.”

As proposed, Spectra’s pipeline route through North Carolina would have crossed Warren, Franklin, Wake, Johnston, Harnett and Cumberland counties before ending in Robeson County.

According to WRAL, Spectra was going to be one of the bidders to build and operate the pipeline for Duke Energy and Piedmont Gas, both of Charlotte, which have teamed up to bring a second major natural gas pipeline into North Carolina. Currently, North Carolina is served by Transco, a 10,200-mile pipeline that sends Gulf of Mexico natural gas from south Texas to New York City.

David Trusty, a spokesman for Piedmont Natural Gas, declined Wednesday to confirm or deny that Spectra was one of the companies that had submitted a pipeline proposal for Piedmont and Duke’s consideration. He said there were several companies that submitted proposals by the June 12 cutoff date.

“There were multiple proposals submitted for evaluation and we are moving forward,” he said. “We hope to make a decision on a proposal by the end of this year.”

Duke and Piedmont have said that the growing demand for natural gas, both to supply customers and power electric plants, is the reason a second major pipeline is needed in North Carolina. Although the companies hope to soon make their selection of a contractor and have the pipeline up and running by 2018, construction cannot begin until the pipeline gets the green light from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Earlier this year, Virginia-based Dominion Resources Inc. also announced it is considering building a gas pipeline from the Northeast through eastern North Carolina. The proposed 450-mile pipeline would bring natural gas from the Appalachian Basin to markets in Virginia and North Carolina. Dominion Transmission is Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resource’s interstate gas transmission and storage subsidiary.

In late May, at the time of the Dominion Resources announcement, Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s economic developer and industrial recruiter, told The Robesonian that such a pipeline would benefit the area in multiple ways.

“It’s going to create jobs and it’s going to strengthen our tax base, but where it’s really going to be critical is our future … you’re going to have more industries looking at Robeson County,” Cummings said. “… This is great news for our tax base. These projects are in the millions of dollars for constructing those lines.”