BEDFORD - A proposed 427-mile, $4 billion natural gas pipeline slated to run from Bedford County to the Carolinas could cut through much of the county's southern half, narrowly avoiding state forest land as it runs toward Maryland, according to maps and fact sheets provided to nearby landowners.
The gas line, proposed by Houston-based Spectra Energy, is likely years away if it's built at all. A Spectra Energy spokeswoman said she couldn't provide any details on the formative project.
But the company has described its work in greater detail to property owners and county officials, who have received documents explaining the plan.
While Bedford County facilities owned by Spectra and its pipeline subsidiary, Texas Eastern, have received positive evaluations and inspections in recent years, the company hasn't been free from public concerns.
The proposed north-south pipeline would join the existing Texas Eastern line running east-west across the county. That line, which carries gas from the Gulf Coast toward New York, New England and Canada, has run through Bedford County for decades, Commissioner Paul Crooks said.
The new line would hook into the existing system at a compressor station along Route 220 south of Bedford, according to Spectra maps.
Compressor stations pressurize natural gas to push it through pipelines; this line could carry more than 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day toward the southern Atlantic states, the company's fact sheet indicates.
The as-yet unnamed line, if constructed, could begin pumping gas as soon as 2018, the company said. Surveying is set to commence this summer.
"We have begun meeting with your community leaders and elected officials about the Spectra Energy Pipeline Project while continuing to evaluate and refine the proposed route," company officials said in a letter to landowners. Maps show a possible route south along Route 220, crossing a mountain ridge and turning south near the Buchanan State Forest.
"It's right now just in the talking stage. I haven't seen any official documentation," said Crooks, whose neighbors' property could be affected by the work.
State Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz said the agency hasn't yet held any meetings or received permit information from Spectra Energy.
An online DEP database shows other, nearby Spectra facilities haven't been cited for violations in recent years.
However, residents near another Spectra-owned facility, the Steckman Ridge storage field and compressor station near Clearville, have complained in recent years of gas blow-offs and property issues.
In March 2013, the station at the field - which can store 12 billion cubic feet of gas in porous underground rock for removal during high-demand periods - drew firefighters' attention after neighbors reported smoke, the Bedford Gazette reported at the time. The company initially reported that only air had leaked from a pressure valve, but days later, it acknowledged that natural gas had been released into the atmosphere.
A letter from a Spectra official to the DEP, posted on a natural gas activist website, indicated 431 million cubic feet of gas was released in the incident. That's far below the legal limit.
In 2010, the DEP fined the company $22,000 for a pair of 2009 Steckman Ridge incidents that left gas in the air and oil scattered on nearby land, the Mirror reported.
The company will work with local public safety officials to ensure the proposed pipeline is safe, Spectra officials said in their fact sheet for property owners. It's not clear whether the Steckman Ridge storage field will be connected to the line; it is situated several miles to the east of the planned connection point.
Based on preliminary maps, the line would cross several southern Bedford County waterways, including the Evitts Creek watershed, Planning Director Donald Schwartz said Thursday.