Who is Washington Gas?
Washington Gas is a regulated natural gas utility providing safe, reliable natural gas service to more than 1.1 million customers in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. An indirect wholly owned subsidiary of AltaGas, the company has been providing energy to residential, commercial, and industrial customers for 170 years.
What is the Strip 1 Tysons Project all about?
Washington Gas is constructing new infrastructure to improve the delivery, safety and reliability of natural gas service for Fairfax County and the entire District of Columbia metropolitan region. In 2012, we began working to upgrade the infrastructure in this area. We started at Tyco Road, crossed the Capital Beltway and now we are connecting the infrastructure to a new regulator station at the Pimmit Hills Center located at 7510 Lisle Avenue in Falls Church. The entire project spans approximately five miles in length, mostly within public right-of-ways. This project is just one of many infrastructure improvements being made across the region and is a priority since this portion of the system in the area is one of our oldest, installed in 1948.
Why do we need natural gas pipelines?
Natural gas supplies 25 percent of all the energy Americans consume. It is the country’s second largest source of energy. Only oil provides more energy than natural gas.[i] 98 percent of the natural gas used in the U.S. comes from North America.[ii] The nation’s pipelines are a transportation system. Pipelines enable the safe movement of energy products to industry and consumers, literally fueling our economy and way of life. They are essential: the volumes of energy products they move are well beyond the capacity of other forms of transportation. Pipeline systems are the safest means to move energy products.
The federal government has established the laws and regulations for the safety and reliability with respect to transportation of natural gas (and other energy products). In 2006, the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipeline Enhancing Safety Act (or PIPES Act) was enacted establishing additional laws mandating new methods and commitments for new technologies to manage the integrity of the nation’s pipelines and raised the bar on pipeline safety. Both federal and state agencies regulate pipelines across the United States. Interstate pipelines are managed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates pipelines, storage, natural gas transportation in interstate commerce, and liquefied natural gas facility construction. DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) Office of Pipeline Safety is responsible for regulating the safety of design, construction, testing, operation, maintenance, and emergency response of U.S. oil and natural gas pipeline facilities.[iii] Although the federal government is responsible for developing, issuing and enforcing pipeline safety regulations, most inspections are conducted by state regulatory agencies, which are responsible for regulation, inspection and enforcement of pipelines within state boundaries. The state agency regulations must be at least as stringent as the federal regulations.
How large is the natural gas energy transportation network?
If all the 2.2 million miles of natural gas pipelines in the U.S. were connected to each other they would stretch to and from the moon almost nine times. [iv] Washington Gas operates thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines across the Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia metropolitan area in neighborhoods, roadways and public spaces every day, delivering safe and reliable service.
Where is Phase 3 of the Strip 1 Project located?
Phase 3 construction is occurring on a portion of Magarity Road, Peabody Road, Lisle Avenue, and the Pimmit Hills Center located at 7510 Lisle Avenue in Falls Church. A regulator station is being installed at the Pimmit Hills Center.
When will the project be complete?
Phases 1, 2, 4, 5 and Phase 5 Extended are complete. Phase 3 is expected to be completed in September 2019. The route for the final phase (Phase 6) has yet to be finalized but will extend between the Lisle Avenue Regulator Station and the Pimmit Hills Pressure Regulator Station located on Route 7 near Pimmit Drive.
How big is the pipeline and why does it need to be that size?
The pipeline is 24-inch diameter coated steel to accommodate current and anticipated energy demands. A major benefit to this size is it enables us to conduct routine state-of-the-art integrity inspections called “in-line inspections” using a specialized robotic tool. The use of this tool provides imagery from inside the pipe so that we can ensure that it is operating optimally.
What will the pipeline pressure be?
The system is designed to safely operate at much higher pressures than Washington is planning for this line. The Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP) Washington Gas is proposing is 325 pounds per square inch (PSI), which is only 16 percent of the design limit.
What is the purpose of the Lisle Avenue Regulator Station?
The regulator station will serve to reduce the gas pressure to feed the existing distribution system throughout Pimmit Hills.
Will a compressor be installed as part of this project?
What is taken into consideration when analyzing and selecting a route?
Route selection is often a lengthy process involving a thorough assessment of potential routes, starting with selecting the general area to evaluate, then performing detailed route evaluations taking many factors into account such as direction from regulatory and permitting authorities, constructability, schedule requirements, environmental considerations, cost effectiveness, and stakeholder preferences.
What is FERC and is this project approved by FERC?
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates pipelines, storage, natural gas transportation in interstate commerce, and liquefied natural gas facility construction. It also oversees operation of pipeline facilities at U.S. points of entry for natural gas imports and exports and analyzes environmental impacts of natural gas projects. For more information about FERC in relations to natural gas pipelines, visit https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/indus-act/pipelines.asp.
The Strip 1 Tysons Project does not require federal regulatory approval. The Strip 1 Project is in the service area certificated to Washington Gas by the State Corporation Commission. The Commission’s Division of Utility and Railroad Safety (Division) is charged with investigating compliance with the safety standards. Annually, the Division conducts various inspections of records, programs, construction, and operation and maintenance activities involving gas operators in Virginia, including Washington Gas.
Are pipelines in public and residential areas safe?
Yes. Worldwide, the energy industry’s goal is to safely and reliably deliver energy products from their origin to their destination. The industry is committed to proactively maintaining pipeline integrity and public safety by implementing world-class construction practices, system design, materials, and inspection and monitoring technologies. Regulatory and industry design standards uphold this commitment for all pipeline operators. In 2016, natural gas and oil and petroleum products in the U.S. safely reached their destinations by pipeline more than 99.99 percent of the time.[v]
As with any densely-populated urban region, pipelines in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia metropolitan area are widely distributed across public and residential areas delivering natural gas safely every day. Washington Gas adds pipelines to its system to serve continued growth in the region or to retire older infrastructure that is in need of replacement. Washington Gas has implemented robust safety measures, above and beyond industry and regulatory requirements, which are an integral part of our system from design to retirement.
How does Washington Gas keep their pipelines safe?
Our number one priority is to provide safe and reliable natural gas service. Washington Gas uses a number of tools to make the natural gas distribution system one of the safest forms of energy transportation. Our safety programs include:
- Participation in excavation damage prevention initiatives and membership in the 811 one call system;
- Installing above-ground markers to indicate the location of buried gas lines;
- Performing visual inspections and leak surveys of our system to identify potential problems;
- Maintaining rigid requirements for qualification and inspection of construction techniques used in our system; and
- Supporting research and development focused on inspection technologies, pipeline integrity, corrosion prevention and construction techniques.
How do I know this new pipeline will be safe?
This line was designed and will be constructed, operated and maintained using state-of-the-art technologies and practices, some of which include:
- High-grade construction materials;
- Epoxy-coated pipe and cathodic protection for corrosion prevention;
- Use of non-metallic slings to handle pipe to prevent damage to coating;
- X-ray testing and coating of all welds;
- Coating inspection of entire pipe before covering with backfill;
- Pressure testing of system (with water) before commissioning;
- 24-hour electronic monitoring;
- Continuous patrols and inspections of our system; and
- Routine state-of-the-art integrity inspections called “in-line inspections” using a specialized robotic tool.
How are emergency response personnel involved in the natural gas industry?
Washington Gas works with first responders on a regular basis. On a national level, the Department of Transportation website includes links to a comprehensive, integrated emergency response training program designed to teach emergency responders and pipeline industry personnel to safely respond and effectively manage pipeline incidents provided by the National Association of State Fire Marshals, www.firemarshals.org. Washington Gas’ first response liaison program invites local emergency response personnel within the entire service territory to complete classroom and field training annually. Washington Gas supports the local emergency responders by also dispatching to emergency locations when there is a possibility that it might involve natural gas to provide assessment and response support.
What can I expect if an earthquake were to occur?
Pipeline design standards and engineering best practices are applied to address anticipated environmental and regional conditions. For an in-depth guide to citizen preparedness and actions to protect your property from an earthquake, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website www.fema.gov.
How deep will the pipeline be buried?
Washington Gas installs pipe in accordance with all applicable specifications. This pipeline will be installed at standard depths of typically three or more feet.
Following the incident in Massachusetts, I have general concerns about safety. Where can I find out more information?
Washington Gas is an industry leader in operating a safe natural gas distribution system and we recognize that some residents may have questions about natural gas safety. Washington Gas is a member of the American Gas Association (AGA) group of companies and AGA prepared the following FAQs in 2018 regarding safety:
How does the public know the industry is committed to safety?
Safety is at the very core of the work we do as an industry and natural gas utilities work tirelessly to help ensure the safety of their customers, communities and employees. The industry spends billions of dollars each year to ensure the safety and reliability of the natural gas infrastructure. Natural gas utilities are subject not only to their own stringent internal controls, but also must meet rigorous federal and state oversight. Inspections are performed regularly by state regulators to ensure that compliance is being met.
- The American Gas Association’s member utilities have adopted a Safety Culture Statement.
- AGA members also made a formal commitment to take additional actions beyond those required by current regulations for the purpose of enhancing safety for their customers and the public.
Can the type of incident in Massachusetts happen to me and my community?
AGA considers it to be a very unusual event. Safety is at the core of the work the industry does, and natural gas utilities work tirelessly to help ensure the safety of their customers, communities and employees. Utilities are continually working to deliver natural gas safely and reliably to the communities they serve. There are federal and state code regulations that natural gas operators are required to follow in transporting natural gas to the end users.
What actions can I take to help ensure the pipelines in my neighborhood are safe?
Customers are the first line of defense when it comes to leak detection and it is important that whenever a person suspects a gas leak they leave the building or area immediately and call 911 or their gas utility to alert them of the issue. Customers should never assume others are calling or reporting suspected leaks.
Utilities odorize natural gas with mercaptan, which smells similar to natural gas, to help provide an added layer of safety for leak detection purposes.
It is also critical to call 811 and ensure that all those who are performing any excavation work in your neighborhood are calling at least three full days before any digging work, even if it is something as simple as planting a tree in your yard. This will allow the local utilities to come and mark the location of any underground lines so that you can avoid damaging them when you dig: http://www.call811.com/
Who will this line serve?
As our system is interconnected this line will maintain the safe and reliable service currently provided to the Pimmit Hills community, local Tysons area, and the broader service territory.
Will the line run through private property?
Generally, utilities are placed in public right-of-way when possible and Washington Gas does not anticipate that the final route for the Strip 1 Tysons Project will use private property. If private property is required, we will reach out to landowners that are crossed to discuss an easement.
Will Washington Gas use eminent domain?
Washington Gas is committed to serving the communities in which we operate and treating the people that we work with honestly and fairly. We view eminent domain as a last resort. We begin each easement negotiation with the expectation that a mutual agreement can be reached with the landowner. In the unlikely event that we cannot reach an agreement with a landowner and must obtain the easement interests through the eminent domain process, a court will determine the appropriate compensation in a valuation proceeding.
Does the presence of a natural gas pipeline lower the value of a nearby home or property?
Generally speaking, published studies and associated literature reviews[vi] [vii] [viii] confirm that property values are derived from many factors, and that the presence of a natural gas pipeline plays a statistically insignificant role in determining property values.
What is Washington Gas doing to minimize the construction disruption for our community?
We recognize that construction creates disruption for residents and commuters. For this portion of the project, we are taking a number of steps to minimize disruptions, some of which include:
- Accelerating construction whenever possible to reduce length of construction;
- Constructing in stages (by block) whenever possible to reduce traffic impacts and more closely communicate with those residences immediately affected by the construction on their street;
- Removing construction equipment from work zones when construction is inactive;
- Condensed work hours to comply with noise ordinances and avoid high commuter times, including school traffic;
- Paving affected streets when construction is complete; and
- Maintaining open lines of communication with the neighborhood so that we can address any issues that may arise in a timely fashion.
Will there be a community meeting?
Washington Gas has hosted and participated in a number of community meetings associated with this project. We have met with the Pimmit Hills Citizens association membership and leadership, Friends of the Barn, and the broader Pimmit Hills community. In fact, we conducted neighborhood walks to talk with many of the residents along the current and potential construction routes in their homes.
If I live along the construction route, what can I expect?
For residents along the construction route, we will hold an informational meeting to discuss this phase of the project. As the work progresses, we will host block meetings with the residents on the block where work will be proceeding. Residents will be notified in advance of the meetings.
If I live in the nearby community, what can I expect?
We are committed to frequent engagement with the community during these final two phases of the project and will provide you with updated information and ways to provide input to our team. We are working diligently with the area schools to minimize the impact of construction during the school year.
[i] U.S. Department of Transportation, https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/faqs/general-pipeline-faqs
[ii] Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, www.ingaa.org
[iii] U.S. Department of Transportation, https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/faqs/general-pipeline-faqs
[iv] Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, www.ingaa.org
[v] State of American Energy. American Petroleum Institute: 2018.
[vi] Michael A. McElveen, Brian E. Brown, and Charles M. Gibbons (2017) Natural Gas Pipelines and the Value of Nearby Homes: A Spatial Analysis. Journal of Housing Research: 2017, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 27-38.
[vii] Louis Wilde, Jack Williamson, and Christopher Loos (2014) A Long-Term Study of the Effect of a Natural Gas Pipeline on Residential Property Values. Journal of Real Estate Literature: 2014, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 47-65.
[viii] Louis Wilde, Christopher Loos, and Jack Williamson (2014) Pipelines and Property Values: An Eclectic Review of the Literature. Journal of Real Estate Literature: 2014, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 245-259.
Last Updated 11/7/2018