Roanoke County’s chief watchdog for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline recently worked up a growl.
In an email dated June 25, Richard Caywood, assistant county administrator, chided Mountain Valley for failing to notify the county of changes to a pipeline route previously described as alternate 135.
“I am quite frankly shocked by the lack of transparency that MVP has displayed with mapping on this project with respect to this issue and in general,” he wrote.
Officials with both Roanoke County and Montgomery County have repeatedly complained that representatives of Mountain Valley have been less than forthcoming about a host of details tied to the controversial $3.2 billion interstate pipeline project.
This latest flap coincides with increased activity in Roanoke County by survey crews working under contract for Mountain Valley as the company attempts to nail down the pipeline’s ultimate route.
Caywood said Monday he had learned about the new alternate 135 last month when reviewing comments by state agencies about possible routes of the 42-inch-diameter natural gas transmission pipeline. Those comments did not jibe with the details of the previously described route of alternate 135 and the route still pictured at the time on Mountain Valley’s website, he said.
Mountain Valley Pipeline, a joint venture of EQT Corp., NextEra Energy and partners, wants to build and bury a 300-mile pipeline that would transport natural gas at high pressure from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Pittsylvania County.
The pipeline’s route could also affect the Virginia counties of Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke and Franklin. Mountain Valley is in the pre-filing stage of seeking approval for the project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
If FERC approves the project, Mountain Valley, a private company, could have access to eminent domain to acquire rights-of-way across private property in cases where negotiations with landowners fail to yield an acceptable price.
Mountain Valley first published alternate 135 in February, noting it offered a route that would divert the pipeline farther away from the Spring Hollow Reservoir, a source of drinking water for the Roanoke Valley, and Camp Roanoke.
Aaron Ruby, a public relations consultant for Mountain Valley Pipeline, is the project’s representative on Roanoke County’s pipeline advisory committee.
Ruby advised Caywood in an email on June 24 that “route selection is a continuously evolving process.” He said all routes are “subject to change until we submit a final proposed route to FERC in our formal certificate application later this year.”
Ruby said that the company’s public filings with FERC had described modifications to alternate 135 and that the related resource report had been previously distributed by Caywood to the pipeline advisory committee.
Caywood responded that Mountain Valley’s continued publication on its website of the inaccurate map gave the appearance of intentionally misleading the public about the route. He said Mountain Valley’s “resource report 10” did not specify that the new alternate 135 “differs in its entirety from previously published maps.”
Caywood said Tuesday that when he first told Mountain Valley in a conference call about the route discrepancies, the company refused to update the map or to send the county an electronic file so it could update its own map.
Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Mountain Valley, described a different scenario Tuesday in an email.
“It was recently brought to our attention by Roanoke County that alternate 135 was not updated on the MVP website,” Cox said. “Once we learned of this oversight, we immediately updated our website with the appropriate map.”
Cox said she was not aware that the company had initially declined to update the map. Caywood said he stands by his version of events.
The former route of alternate 135 no longer appears on the company’s map.
Craig Meadows, county administrator for Montgomery County, said Tuesday that he had not been notified that the new route could involve more property owners in Montgomery County.
On Tuesday afternoon, Caywood briefed the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors about the Mountain Valley project and the ongoing work of the county’s pipeline advisory committee.
Supervisor Butch Church restated the board’s frustration with what he described as Mountain Valley’s history of poor communication with county officials.
“To me, this is totally unacceptable,” Church said, noting that he is left to “wonder if it’s almost by design.”