The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued approval of a 55-mile natural-gas pipeline to be built across the Upstate over the objections of landowners and environmental groups.
The Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience, issued late Thursday, grants Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission the authority to use eminent domain to force property owners to provide easements for the project.
Opponents have vowed to continue their fight.
Laurens County Council voted last week to urge state and federal legislators and regulators to deny Dominion the right to use eminent domain.
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FERC wasn’t moved. U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott and U.S. Representatives Jeff Duncan and Trey Gowdy declined to publicly offer support either way.
The pipeline will be mostly underground from Moore in Spartanburg County to Greenwood County, near Chappells, with associated support facilities above-ground, and it includes a 50-foot easement along its length, establishing permanent restrictions on what property owners can do there.
“We plan to still fight this project and do our best to educate the public on this unconstitutional act by a private company to make a profit for themselves,” said Greenville resident Scott Hipp, an affected landowner whose family owns about 900 acres near Cross Hill.
Last week Dominion asked FERC to issue approval by today, saying it’s needed to being the project on time and that failure to do so would threaten to cause long delays because commissioner Norman Bay is slated to retire and FERC would’ve lacked a quorum required for voting.
“I'm disappointed that Dominion was seemingly able to influence FERC's decision-making timeline to push this pipeline through,” said Michael Corley, staff attorney and Upstate coordinator for SCELP, a nonprofit public-interest law firm. “It just goes to show once again how much leverage the company has in this process, in contrast to the nearly powerless position of affected landowners. And that gap is only going to get wider now that the prospect of Dominion exercising eminent domain over these folks' private property is very real.
“I still don't have a clear picture of why this pipeline is actually necessary, which is disappointing given that this was the purpose of the FERC process. As a lawyer, I suppose I'm not inclined to take someone's word for such things, and I want to see actual proof.”
Dominion spokesperson Kristen Beckham said the project will benefit state residents as well as the company.
"The project will help build a stronger economy and a cleaner environment for South Carolina," she said. "By providing 80,000 dekatherms per day of firm transportation service, with about 94 percent to South Carolina Electric & Gas for its residential, commercial and industrial customers, this project will help meet the growing regional need for reliable and domestic natural gas. We believe the FERC order confirms that the project can be built in an environmentally responsible way that protects the public safety and natural resources of our region."