Original story by Andrew Brown for Charleston Gazette-Mail. The original can be found here.
Kinder Morgan, one of the country’s largest gas transmission companies, is set to start building two new compressor stations near Sissonville by the end of the year as part of an $800 million pipeline expansion project.
On Tuesday, the Houston-based company received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the two compressor stations in Kanawha County that are worth $100 million as part of the Broad Run Expansion Project.
That project is being undertaken by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, Kinder Morgan’s subsidiary. The company says the project will improve gas transport through an existing pipeline in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee by enhancing two existing compressor stations and building four new compressor stations.
With federal approval, the construction of the new compressor stations in West Virginia is expected to start by December, according to the company’s website.
Once the pipelines work is completed, which is expected by May 2018, the upgraded pipeline will be able to handle an additional 200 million cubic feet of gas per day, according to FERC’s order.
According to the federal document, Antero Resources, one of West Virginia’s largest gas companies, has sealed a deal with Kinder Morgan to use all of that additional capacity, once the new compressor stations are in place.
The pipeline enhancement project is just one of the interstate pipeline projects in West Virginia that have been submitted to FERC for federal review.
There are at least seven large-diameter pipeline projects, with proposed investments of more than $16.4 billion, that have been requested from large gas transmission companies like Dominion, EQT Midstream, Energy Transfer and Columbia Pipeline Group.
The capacity in those pipelines alone will be able to handle around four times the amount of gas that was produced in the entire state in 2014, according to West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection data.
Groups like the U.S. Forest Service and the Southern Environmental Law Center have argued that not all of the West Virginia pipeline projects pending in front of FERC are needed, and they have pushed for the projects to be reviewed comprehensively, instead of being analyzed in separate cases.
Several environmental groups, including the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, opposed the Broad Run Expansion Project during the federal regulatory review, but Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and numerous Republican state lawmakers submitted letters in support of the project, including Sens. Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha; Chris Walters, R-Putnam; and Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson; and Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha.
Walters met with representatives from Kinder Morgan in recent months, and has said the pipeline company was completing the project because of laws passed by the Republican-led Legislature in the past two years. He specifically cited pro-corporate legal reform and right-to-work, a law that limits the power of labor unions that is still being challenged in the state court system.
“All of that movement forward over the past few years has made West Virginia a better place to be,” said Walters, who is running for re-election against Democrat Wes Holden and Mountain Party candidate Chris Reed.
When asked if the pipeline enhancements had anything to do with the new laws, Richard Wheatley, director of corporate affairs for Kinder Morgan, said they did not.
“The two new proposed stations in West Virginia will augment existing Tennessee Gas pipeline infrastructure in the state and are needed to support the planned Broad Run Project,” he said.
Walters said he recognizes that the company is siting the compressor stations in Kanawha County because that is where the infrastructure needs are, not because of any new state law. But he still believes that the pipeline project was reflective of the state’s improving business climate.
“I just think it’s because we’re moving forward in West Virginia,” he said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how much money was being proposed for pipelines. The actual cost was $16.4 billion.
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