The comment period on the 42” Atlantic Coast Pipeline comes to a close this Thursday. Anyone who made comments during the pre-filing period MUST submit those comments again, since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has essentially tossed those into a pile of “old business.”
If you are a landowner, you may have already commented. If you are not a landowner along the route, perhaps you are an abutter (one next to property on the pipeline). If you are neither of these things, perhaps you are still concerned about threats to water, safety, and public health, or future economic development. All of these are valid concerns. You should write to the FERC.
Abutters will face most of the same risks as affected landowners, without the offers of money for the use of their property – water contamination, stream degradation, soil contamination, danger of fire or explosion, lowered property value among them. You have a right to have your concerns heard.
Even those not directly abutting could be negatively affected. The incineration zone is 3600 feet from the pipeline center. Our high school sits within the incineration zone, as does our state police barracks.
The evacuation zone a pipeline this size is 2 miles. If you are wondering if your property is in the evacuation zone, you can consult the GIS layered maps at www.pipelineupdate.org. Does your community have an evacuation plan? If not, you might consider asking your county commission, local emergency planning commission, or office of emergency management to develop one. Better yet, consider joining one of these orgs, or even creating a planning commission in your community to address issues that are receiving short shrift.
This project has many more costs than benefits, though you may have only heard about the benefits. Some of the drawbacks include millions in foregone economic development (who wants to start a small business in an incineration zone?), reduced property value (try selling your house when you tell prospective buyers they may be caught in a gas fire), and stream degradation (siltation during construction kills stream life). We have seen this happen with the Stonewall-Momentum gathering line.
The 75-foot permanent easement will be sprayed with herbicides that will runoff into streams, and you can’t put anything but a flower garden on it. The 42” monstrosity will cross the Buckhannon River, our water source, and tributaries 9 times, and cross over miles of underground mines.
The pipeline is buried only feet below the surface, but how far below our streams will it be built? This question has been posed to Dominion by city officials and has yet to be answered. Will it be deep enough to protect the stream bed from going under, or will it be deep enough to connect with underground mines? Either way, our drinking water source is at risk.
What about jobs? Looking at the DEIS for this project (bear in mind this is info given to the FERC by Dominion) there could be 384 temporary jobs and only 22 permanent jobs. What is temporary? The Draft Environmental Impact Statement says the work tours will be 6-12 weeks long. Is it worth risking our water, safety, public health for a few temporary jobs?
How many employees will be locally hired? Not many, if you consider what happened with the Stonewall Momentum gathering line. Very few will be from West Virginia; most of them will be from the south and west. Skilled workers are moved from site to site, not hired locally.
Who will pay for the $5billion project? Why, the ratepayers, of course, in the form of higher energy rates. Will it provide gas to our area? Nope. All of it is being sent out of state and offshore, so the companies owning it can make money selling it on the world market (where the going rate is higher than domestic). When that happens, our energy prices will rise.
What about tax revenue? Whatever money might come from this project will go to the state coffers, and they will dole it out as they please. Will it go for roads, schools, and other community projects? That is anyone’s guess, but the company has no stated plans to pay for roads or loss of life or property. The fact that they are a limited liability corporation means they won’t be liable for damages.
Don’t take my word for it; have a look at the DEIS yourself: https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2016/12-30-16-DEIS.asp
This project would have about 1,000 miles of access roads, effectively tripling its length. It will cross almost 2,000 waterways and affect the delicate Karst cavern and water filtration system. Moreover, we know that fracking is going to increase as soon as these projects get their certificate from the FERC. And we know what this means for our region: more water consumed, toxified, and injected, causing earthquakes, water and air contamination, and an exacerbated health crisis.
New York and Maryland have banned fracking. Have they done this because they want to live in the dark ages again? No, it is because they have looked at the evidence and wish to protect their communities. Surely, they want to develop energy and create jobs, but in a healthy, ethical, and sustainable way.
The only way to protect our water, safety, and public health and provide safe jobs is to invest in other types of energy - clean, green energy. Solar power provided more jobs in 2015 than coal, oil and gas combined. Companies like Coalfield Development Corporation are using federal dollars from programs like the Power Plus Plan to train former coalfield workers to do the new jobs that are part of a sustainable future: installing solar panels, sustainable construction, reclamation and remediation are just the tip of the iceberg. Talk about providing jobs – there it is! And guess what – we don’t have to live in the dark.
The deadline for comments is April 6 at 4:59p.m. Comments can be submitted on paper or electronically, at www.ferc.gov. Search for 556-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, click on the link for the DEIS, and choose the docket # for the project you wish to comment upon. Most people use the pipeline itself (CP15-554), but the 37-mile Supply Header Project in Marshall, Wetzel, and Doddridge is also part of the picture.
Unlike a wildfire or tornado, West Virginia is facing a disaster from which there is likely no recovery.
From judges that cancel a hearing and allow the waste to be put into our aquifers, to President Obama claiming natural gas is a “bridge to clean energy”, with almost unlimited funds, horizontal hydrofracturing (hhf or fracking) is being promoted, and its enormous damage hidden, in every imaginable way and at every government level.
Natural gas is not a bridge. Rather, it is reducing US support for clean energy technology, allowing other nations to control that growing market. Moreover, it is dirtier than coal because of the many leaks during production, its potency as a greenhouse gas and the tremendous amount of diesel fuel used.
Meanwhile, permitting frackers to dump hhf waste into drinking water is monstrous. These radioactive fluids contain heavy metals and endocrine disrupters that destroy immunity and impede body functions.
Clueless operators produce an average of five million gallons of this toxic waste every two to five years per well. And West Virginia is the recipient of such material not only from the over 1,200 hhf wells here, but also from those in other states plus 53,000 vertically-fracked gas wells.
This flood of poison, having nowhere safe to go, is being dumped in West Virginia wherever possible. Calling it “deicer”, the WV Div. of Highways puts it on roads. Truckers have been spotted pouring it into tributaries to rivers used for drinking water. It is injected into abandoned coal mines which sometimes serve as reservoirs. It is reported to be spread on mountaintop removal sites, and legally, is put into creeks.
Though extremely corrosive, frack waste is stored in dangerously under-regulated tanks whose whereabouts and contents are kept secret by the WV Health Dept. due to “terrorism”. It is also left in “evaporation ponds” and is going into the water table from pits above perforated rock--and from more than seven hundred-fifty leaky, abandoned gas wells across the state.
Now it has been discovered that the drilling mud, thought to be benign, is also toxic; while frack-waste in tanks increases in radioactivity five-fold in fifteen days. When even some of this contamination reaches our water supplies, we will pay for it with our health. And once poisoned, aquifers cannot affordably be restored.
Far from reigning in polluters, however, protective agencies are helping them. The WV Dept. of Environmental Protection has adopted the EPA exemption of all gas and oil field wastes from hazardous classification. Presently, by law, hhf waste cannot be tested for toxins or radioactivity and it is handled and stored as if it were only brine. The WV DEP has sponsored state regulations shielding fracking from public scrutiny. Moreover, this agency ignores flagrant gas industry violations, and recommends waste disposal options that by-pass safe drinking water requirements. Fracking is also exempt from all major federal environmental laws.
Due to collaboration between industry and government, we are apparently now a sacrifice zone. In West Virginia, fracking is expected to expand exponentially when pipelines to export terminals are completed.
For documented verification, please go to www.mountainpartywv.com, “dumping facts”. If you seek information elsewhere, please beware that academic studies, for example, reflect substantial natural gas grants and investments, that industry advertising is very profitable to the media and politicians receive large natural gas campaign contributions. Again, there is seemingly unlimited money backing hydrofracking. But also please be aware that, together, informed citizens can correct situations. Otherwise this dire issue would not be concealed.
Before they could view documents for a recently proposed vast industrial landfill, Doddridge County residents were forced to travel almost 2 hours each way to an office in Kanawha County. Such documents could easily have been more readily available to the affected residents.
Even though such files are digitally stored, the WV Department of Environmental Protection “DEP” failed to provide easy internet access even to a copy of the completed permit application,
Completely omitted among all the provided information is that this $2 million landfill will be used to process and store extremely toxic, radioactive sludge. Thus, at the August 23 permit hearing, local citizens were insufficiently alerted to potential impacts to local sourcewaters. This was an obvious coverup by the WV DEP.
Other impacts will be substantial. At least 5-1/4 miles of streams will be destroyed. They are the type of streams that are considered important water resources. Fresh natural water sources are already over-stressed in Doddridge County. There are two dozen or so private local water wells that have reportedly been ruined by indolent oversight of local gas drilling permits issued by the DEP .
If this landfill is permitted as proposed, a number of wetlands will be destroyed. Recent permits authorized by the WV DEP have already allowed the destruction of these valued resources where Mark West's cryogenic unit expansion is now located. Only .05 percent of Doddridge County's total acreage are considered wetland. The additional loss of these already scarce resources will deal a serious blow to the County's water resources.
It is extremely troubling that the waste proposed for disposal is described in the permit simply as “salts”, Various salts can be beyond toxic. Once in water, some are corrosive, many caustic or flammable and some even form toxic gas.
Most alarming, though, is that the proposed permit describes sediment ponds that will apparently be used to settle heavy metals and other frack wastewater contaminants into sludge containing dangerously high concentrations of radionuclides.
Prior to banning horizontal hydrofracturing altogether, New York's State Department of Environmental Conservation logged extremely high Radium 226 levels in the type of water those pits will be turning to sludge. One peer-reviewed scientific study reported that millions of barrels of this wastewater in Pennsylvania and New York were over 3,600 times more radioactive than the federal limit for drinking water, and 300 times more radioactive than the Nuclear Regulatory Commission limit for nuclear plant discharges.
Despite the radioactive hazard, state and federal exemptions actually prevent hydrofracking wastewater from being properly regulated as hazardous. Such loopholes circumvent adequate baseline comparison tests which could otherwise determine if radionuclides and other relevant toxins are leaking from the landfill.
The 1600-year half-life of Radium 226 will long outlast the permit's bond requirements and every form of containment proposed. Radium 226 is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and being water soluble, travels easily up the food chain. When ingested, it replaces calcium in the joints where it will irradiate blood and connecting tissue. Radiation poisoning causesbirth defects, early aging and cancer.
Until the public is properly provided with all of the facts, and unless the risks to the long term health of the local community and the environmental tradeoffs are fully addressed, the award of Doddridge County's Class F landfill should be postponed.
Like the judge in Fayette County, who, without a hearing, nullified West Virginian's right to stop toxic dumping, in 2015,Governor Tomblin allowed construction to continue on a pipeline project when a cease and desist order should have been given. The WV DEP issued a “consent order” for a company that had incurred 53 pipeline violations in only a few months. In such an order, the offending party promises to correct the violations and pay a fine while the operation continues.
Autumn Bryson, an environmental consultant, documented these and many more violations in a fifteen-mile stretch of the 55 mile, 36-inch diameter, Stonewall “gathering” pipeline. This pipeline carries 700 million cubic feet of gas per day with shut-off valves every 25 miles. Usually located in rural settings, gathering pipelines are nearly unregulated.
Natural gas is invisible, odorless, poisonous and highly explosive. In interstate pipelines, it is transported at an average pressure of 1,440 pounds per square inch which rises dramatically when the contents are forced up mountainsides. Explosions and asphyxiations do occur and with valves miles apart the resulting fires have lasted for up to a week. Gas pipelines are said to be monitored for leaks by aircraft once every few years, with dying vegetation the only indicator.
BTEX, a highly carcinogenic and neurotoxic fluid, can also be transported in such pipelines. Although this material has electronic leak detection, only leaks greater than 1.8 percent of the daily flow are spotted. With an expected flow of 1.4BILLION cu/ft/day, this means that over 25 million cubic feet of poison will escape daily from every leak just under 1.8 percent of flow. BTEX transport does not require a FERC permit.
However, it is reported that 60 to 80 % of fracking hazards result from compressor stations located every 40 to 100 miles along the pipelines. These machines run constantly. Some use diesel fuel which is known to cause asthma, lung cancer and heart problems. All emit carcinogenic, neurotoxic VOCs. formaldehyde and hydrogen sulfide.
Hydrogen sulfide, being heavier than air, accumulates in low areas. The EPA has reported that venting, leaks from well head equipment and compressors, spills, malfunctions or build-up in enclosed or low-lying areas can create lethal levels of this gas.
Moreover, scientific research is increasingly revealing that exposure to long-term, low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide can also destroy health. The effects include damage to the cardiovascular, immune, digestive, respiratory and central nervous systems, as well as the ear/nose/throat complex and muscle, bone, skin, teeth, gums, urinary tract, blood and cancer. Yet, under pressure from the oil and gas companies, hydrogen sulfide has been exempted from the Clean Air Act.
Despite these hazards, if their lease offer is refused, for-profit gas companies claim they can take property by “eminent domain”. This high handed approach has helped galvanize very diverse Appalachian groups into coalitions actively opposing pipelines.
One of these, POWHR (Protect Our Water Heritage and Rights), unites preservation groups through the Virginias and North Carolina along the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline route. By delaying construction with regulatory tactics, POWHR has bought time for conditions to change in their favor such as lowered gas prices. Kentucky's Friends for Environmental Justice is another rapidly-growing, successful coalition. When faced with trouble, people in Appalachia do what they must.
Some say the solution is to ban fracking altogether as New York State, Vermont, Maryland, several Canadian provinces and ten nations have done. But the NY ban did not include the entire fracking infrastructure and that state is now battling pipelines and toxic waste from elsewhere.
So many people have found that if you sign a Right of Way for a pipeline, you lose your rights to that land forever, yet still pay the taxes on it each year.
Pipeline Right Of Ways – How to Prevent Losing Yours
Posted by Ron Hale on August 6, 2016 at 9:21pm in General Shale DiscussionsSend Message View Discussions
When that Oklahoma Pipeline company landman shows up and tells you he will pay you $10 per foot for the first two pipelines that are placed across your land, consider the following:
A Pipeline Row must have a survey attached to limit the pipeline company to the area you agreed upon for pipeline placement. If they don’t know where the pipeline will run but ask you to sign their one page Right Of Way contract, you are a target for having your ROW stolen. This has happened all over Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and will continue to happen as Oil & Gas moves West in Ohio and South in WV.
Also, never sign a ROW contract without Legal Representation reviewing the contract first.
If the landman says “ We don’t negotiate” he is doing a first through sweep to find out who is weak minded enough to sign his ROW contract.
Examples of Landowners who lost their ROWs:
One landowner that I know lost his Right Of Way, but doesn’t know it yet. He was told that the company needed a Road across his land, so they wrote a 2 Year Road ROW with the option to extend the ROW within that 2 years. A year later they extended the Road Row into “Perpetuity” and stated that all Rights of the Landowner were now the companies Rights. Those Rights include any Pipeline ROWs that are needed in the future.
An Elderly Farmer I met, was told in 2013 that he would be paid by this Oklahoma Pipeline Company for the first two pipelines placed across his land. The Landowner agreed which can be considered a Legal Verbal Contract in Ohio. The Elderly Farmer told me several times that he agreed to be paid for 2 pipelines, and asked me why he was only paid for the first pipeline and not the 2nd and a Fiber Optic Cable that was run across his land.
I looked at his written contract which stated he was paid per foot of Right Of Way. What these thieves did to this Elderly Ohio Farmer, was change the contract by putting a different written contract in front of him at the Bank where the Notary Witnessed the signature, after making a legal verbal contract for two pipeline payments. This is Theft by Deception in Ohio, a Criminal Matter.
Most states protect those over 65, Ohio also does, unless there is an Oil and Gas Related company or person doing the theft. The Farmer was in his 70s in 2013 at the time of the theft. The Jefferson County Protective Services Rep. told me this was a Civil Matter. I told him this is a Criminal Matter.
In both of these cases the landowners were never asked to sell their Right Of Ways, but both lost their Right Of Ways due to wording on the written contract. Does a bogus written contract always overwrite a Verbal Contract in Ohio? I’m betting it doesn’t.
Those of you who have lost your Right Of Way in a similar manner to this Oklahoma Pipeline Company, Let’s take back our Right of Ways In Ohio. Let's find a Lawyer who will take up this issue and let's put it in writing in a Class Action Complaint.
Submitted by Rick Webb, DPMC
When Governor Terry McAuliffe endorsed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline he declared it would be “the most environmentally responsible pipeline ever built in the history of the United States of America.” Yet he promoted the project and its benefits without first consulting state natural resource officials and agencies, thereby preempting real environmental review and consideration of alternatives. (See: McAuliffe/Farrell, 9/2/14)
His indifference to actual information and analysis became more apparent when he announced that the proposed pipeline would not be used to move gas from fracked sources. (See: Washington Post, 9/10/14)
He has refused to even respond to requests for a Citizen's Advisory Panel to study and make recommendations on state regulatory review of the ACP and MVP proposals. His top officials had to be threatened with a lawsuit to provide citizens information on pipeline deliberations, and others have actively worked to hide information from the public. (See: Roanoke Times, 6/1/16)
We still don’t know if the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will step up to its oversight responsibilities, or if it will simply facilitate regulatory short cuts? Meanwhile Governor McAuliffe has mislead the public, claiming Virginia has no power over the pipelines, despite the fact that the States have veto powers under the Clean Water Act to stop damaging projects. (See: The News Virginian, 7/22/15)
When Terry McAuliffe ran for Governor he promised a new level of transparency and openness, declaring that "Virginians should never have to question who their leaders are putting first." (See: VCU Capital News Service, 12/3/13)
Terry McAuliffe has forgotten his promise. He needs reminding.
See: March on the Mansion, Saturday, July 23rd
06.30.16Washington, D.C. – Today, more than 100 families personally affected by fracking sent a letter to President Obama asking for him to meet with them in advance of the Democratic National Convention, where impacted people from across the country will be coming to participate in a march calling for a ban on fracking and extreme fossil fuel extraction and a swift transition to renewables.
“We are here to ask you and ranking EPA officials to meet with our families to hear the personal testimonies – how they have been harmed by the oil and gas industry, and how they have been abandoned by local, state, and federal agencies and officials,” says the letter, coordinated by Friends of the Harmed, an all-volunteer, direct-service organization providing relief to families affected by fracking in Pennsylvania with support from Food & Water Watch, the first national advocacy organization to call for a ban on fracking.
“Your trip to Flint, Michigan, the veto against the Keystone XL Pipeline, and recent statements around action on climate change show you care and understand people have a right to clean water, clean air, and a healthy planet,” says the letter, which asks President Obama to meet with the many affected families who will be coming across the country to march at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) to demand a “Clean Energy Revolution.”
“President Obama should take the opportunity to provide bold leadership and acknowledge that fracking comes at a cost to families and to communities,” said Dana Dolney, Director of Friends of the Harmed and publisher of Shalefield Stories. “It’s not too late to provide leadership on fracking as part of his lasting legacy for the history books.”
"I've seen firsthand the appalling lack of federal and tribal action to prevent, mitigate, and enforce regulations on the oil industry that not only effects the land, air, water and our health, but also led to an increase in violence—in particular, violence against Native women— and there is little justice because, by law, tribal and non-tribal law enforcement cannot exert criminal jurisdiction over non-Natives on tribal land," said Cedar Wilkie Gillette, a member of the MHA Nation in North Dakota.
“We’re labeled as radicals,” said Lois Bower-Bjornson, a mother of four from Washington County, Pa. “But it’s the industry that is being allowed to radically alter our future and our lives with no consequences."
Late last week, the DNC Platform drafting committee voted to leave a ban on fracking out of the DNC platform, to the disappointment of climate activists and affected communities alike.
“Pennsylvania, the host state of the DNC, has been ravaged by fracking, yet President Obama and the Democratic establishment continues to ignore the negative impacts it has on people there and across the country,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Direct service organizations like Friends of the Harmed should not be the only place for affected communities in Pennsylvania to turn. We need our federal and state agencies to stop sweeping fracking harms under the rug.”
Friends of the Harmed has compiled two publications that include personal testimonials of affected individuals. Shalefield Stories, Vol. 2 is available for a small donation to Friends of the Harmed. All public donations go into a direct aid fund to provide relief to impacted families in the gas fields of the Marcellus in the form of replacement water, air filters and independent testing. For more information, visit shalefieldstories.org.
Contact: Seth Gladstone, sgladstone[at]fwwatch[dot]org, 347.778.2866
For over a century, rural West Virginia has been the dumping grounds for toxic waste. So on Jan.12, 2016, Fayette County passed an historic ordinance to ban it. Fayette has one of the highest cancer rates in West Virginia, a state where cancer is projected to rise faster than most everywhere else in the nation.
However, on June 10, after cancelling a scheduled hearing, Federal Judge John T. Copenhaver ruled that state-issued permits for the purpose of dumping horizontal hydrofracturing (HHF) wastes override the Fayette County Commission's authority to protect county residents from being contaminated from them.
Cancelling all scheduled testimony one day before the hearing, Judge Copenhaver, who has recused himself from numerous previous natural gas cases, may have felt that the evidence slated for the Fayette County Commission's appeal too informative for public consumption.
Ruling from the bench, Copenhaver effectively prevented getting on the court record that the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) had recently re-issued permits for two HHF waste injection wells despite the agency knowing that the facility had seriously contaminated nearby Wolf Creek. Located upstream from a Fayette public water intake, the DEP has incredibly never ordered the dumping stopped, nor even adequately monitored to determine if the wells are still leaking.
With assistance from natural gas lobbyists, the same DEP whose permitting authority Judge Copenhaver upheld, has instituted three WV regulatory laws that seriously endanger public health.
One classifies all gas- and oil-field wastes as non-hazardous, no matter how toxic or radioactive. Another prevents anyone, including first responders, from ever finding out exactly what chemicals are in HHF fluid wastes.
Possibly the worst allows owner-only monitoring of HHF-waste tanks.
Throughout the state thousands of natural gas waste holding tanks are all under-classified by state regulators, as if they simply contain brine. Yet curiously, as a Homeland Security measure, public disclosure of their locations is disallowed. But if they only contain "brine", then why are Homeland Security measures necessary?
The truth that Homeland Security hides, DEP obscures, and Judge Copenhaver ignored is that many, if not most, contain extremely corrosive material and up to 500 different compounds that are highly toxic and even radioactive.
Historically, terrorists have never poisoned a single West Virginia stream. Meanwhile, numerous corporations have seriously contaminated the sourcewaters for communities across the state. Without adequate public oversight West Virginia extraction industries have a legacy of running rampant, operating under permits “legitimately” issued by an agency that has become known across rural West Virginia as the state's Department of Everyone Poisoned.
If their lips weren't sealed by a Waste Virginia court order, the survivors of Rawl, Merrimac, Sprigg, Lick Creek, and many other communities would tell you that piping "city water" to their homes came too late for far too many residents. Long after their water wells were contaminated with coal slurry, DEP permits to dump it into abandoned coal mines local to those communites were revealed in a WV Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) study to have been dangerously inadequate.
By failing to initially step in around a decade earlier to block the initial DEP decision to permit the pumping of coal slurry into abandoned mines, the DHHR shirked its responsibility to protect WV citizens from the DEP's serious lack of regulatory integrity.
After the infamous MCHM leak into Elk River, we should all by now fully understand that the need for public oversight of our sourcewaters far outweighs the threat of terrorism. Nonetheless, for the first time ever, the WV Bureau of Public Health's Source Water Assessment Program demands that its officials sign non-disclosure agreements. This prevents the general public from being able to efficiently monitor the exact whereabouts, size, or contents of significant potential pollution sources. Incredibly, the WV legislature recently exempted federal and state agencies from answering citizen FOIA requests regarding the state's Source Water Assessment Program.
These loopholes, instigated WV's Dept. of Homeland Security, lead local citizens to wonder if the fear of terrorism isn't being used to hide yet more mass poisonings of entire communities, under DEP-permitted dumping of even more industrial wastes.
Often hauled in out of state, there are no other sources of HHF waste in Fayette County. So until Copenhaver's ruling is successfully appealed, no West Virginia county can exercise its state-codified authority to protect against state-permitted toxic dump sites, or outlaw the seriously under-regulated "holding" tanks located on them.
As it stands now, there are more than 600 similar HHF injection wells scattered throughout West Virginia threatening the sourcewaters of your community.
Barbara Daniels & Tom Rhule
WV Mountain Party Environmental Justice Committee
304 989 1629
2016-06-16 Opinions & Commentary
Put burden on companies, not landowners
For three years now, we’ve witnessed a perverse form of “crowd-sourcing” — the modern day term for gathering information by enlisting the free services of large numbers of people, usually online, for a particular project.
Dominion’s proposal for a 42-inch gas transmission pipeline over three states has used this method in a way that puts the burden of information and input on others. And we do mean burden.
It appears to us that once the corporation decided to install this pipeline, Dominion staff simply drew a path on the map from the gas source, Marcellus shale in West Virginia, to its goal in North Carolina, at Duke Energy, before it examined details about the terrain or properties along the route. Dominion left it up to residents and landowners in the pipe’s path to tell the company what kinds of resources it would impact.
This upside-down information flow was a savvy move for Dominion — you folks who are affected by the project put your own money, time and energy into telling the company what it needs to know about what’s in the pipeline path. It’s been your responsibility to explain the terrain, where the sinkholes are, about your historic farms, whether you have a conservation easement on your property, where your family members are buried, and much more, so Dominion can adjust its route accordingly.
Our state and federal agencies have been responsible for telling Dominion about the regulations in place to protect special areas, where threatened species live, what the habitats mean for our local ecology, which rivers are important to avoid, and more.
Of course, this information has flowed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not to Dominion directly, moving FERC closer to the point where it could possibly draft an Environmental Impact Statement for the project. This process for projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is important in that companies really do need to know about features that might not be obvious in a project’s path, but in this case, nearly every piece of important information was readily available. Had Dominion personnel spent a week online studying the corridors they chose, they could have quickly learned about most of these features long before now. Before the company ever applied for approval from FERC.
Dominion staff could have easily discovered, for instance, the Cow Knob salamander lived in a protected area on Shenandoah Mountain. An online search yields dozens of articles about this special habitat in minutes.
They could have quickly found properties with existing conservation easements. Google Earth would have shown them where people live, or where their outbuildings and roads are, and the topographical features that would be hard to cross.
In fact, any reasonable person searching for a pipeline path would have done a little research, and concluded that coming through these mountains is not just a daunting task for engineering, but discarded this route for all the reasons people have explained to FERC for the last three years.
But, no. Dominion waited for somebody else to tell them what was in the pipeline’s path, thereby saving themselves the hassle, and the time. And, it continues to insist this is the only route it can use.
This region is particularly well protected, unlike our neighbors farther south whose land has been given over to mountain top removal and industrial ruin. It’s been protected by private individuals who value their properties’ important features; by state game, recreation and forestry folks who understand the need to preserve habitats for indicator species found nowhere else, and conserve rivers and forests for future generations to enjoy; by federal forestry officials who, with significant input from the rest of us, designate overall forest management to balance preservation with human use and need. Thanks to all of these individual and collective attitudes and policies about this region’s unique assets, the Allegheny Highlands and Blue Ridge Mountain areas are generally intact, thriving mostly the way Mother Nature intended. Thanks to that, they are also a boon to local economies where counties do not often sacrifice natural resources for big industry; or, when they do, they tread very carefully.
Dominion’s proposal would undo hundreds of years of preservation, conservation, and careful planning and growth. Let’s review again what this project would affect:
To all of you who have put hundreds of hours of time and energy into providing detailed information to FERC about the land you walk on every day, here’s the good news: Now, it’s Dominion’s turn to spend its own time and money.
FERC has issued nearly 200 directives to Dominion based on your comments, your information, and now the company will have to reply. It will have to tell FERC what it intends to do in order to avoid certain areas and mitigate impacts to the places you hold dear.
Don’t get your hopes up that Dominion will find good solutions, though. More likely, we should expect Dominion to say there’s just no way ‘round some of these places, sorry. And it will say it has looked at all the alternative routes, although we know how well Dominion studies possible paths, so don’t be fooled. It will offer up standard procedures for blasting, building access roads, and running pipe under rivers and through karst — none of which will be good enough. We’ve seen this kind of response before.
But: The rational folks at FERC have at least told Dominion it won’t get a draft Environmental Impact
Statement schedule on the books until it answers these questions and provides considerably more information. This indicates not only that FERC staff has reviewed your comments, but that it takes them seriously enough not to forge ahead with a date for Dominion’s process to proceed.
However Dominion replies to FERC’s directives, we think it’s wholly irresponsible for any company to pick a pipeline path with so little research into what it will impact. Any fifth-grader with an Internet connection could have noticed one of the routes considered was going right up the driveway of historic Fort Lewis Lodge, or right into a valley with no way to escape emergencies, or right over a graveyard.
We are fortunate we could provide information to FERC about our region, although we remain convinced the agency should have provided more time to do that. But in the future, FERC should thoroughly examine its own methodology and put the burden on companies to do a lot more legwork on projects before they apply for approvals. It’s unfair that citizens, government, agency officials who don’t have the time or resources should have to explain what Dominion could have easily figured out for itself. Next time, FERC should tell project applicants like Dominion to plan more carefully, in advance, before establishing a route that is so clearly wrong.
Author - You
If you have a story about living with fracking or pipelines, please send it to us and we will publish it here.