The piece on the front page of the Exponent on Sept. 19 was more of the same: happy words for the coming of the pipeline. This time, the headline seems to suggest that the company has held strong and is now all set to go: “Pipeline Partners Make it Official!” Hear ye, hear ye! Hooray for the pipeline! It is going to provide jobs, and they are doing an environmental impact statement, and don't you feel much better now?
We in WV should not let headlines feed our opinions. Make no mistake, this is a for-profit industry. Any protection of our communities is mandated by law, and companies' donations to schools and local government are as transparent as a kid asking nicely because he knows it's the way to get what he wants.
Landowners along the line can tell you that this industry is predatory. Land agents for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines have been telling people they might as well sign the contract, lease the road, sell the land, because it's going to be taken eventually by eminent domain. A very important point to be understood about this is that statement is NOT TRUE until the FERC decides to approve these pipelines, which they have not done.
There are people whose farms are in jeopardy, whose life savings, retirement, and businesses are on the line. West Virginia's water, and by extension the water in 13 states where our water goes, is on the line. These companies send their smiling agents to pressure people to sign away their inheritance, and for what? This is a large-diameter pipeline carrying highly flammable material, the largest that has ever been tried here. An explosion will vaporize everything within 1200 feet and burn everything in a 2-mile radius. If it is going through your property, you lose 25-75% of your property value. How is that a good deal?
And they say it will bring jobs. Anyone can go to the Dominion website and read the reports and see that these reports present conflicting information. There is no way to tell what these projections mean and how they were procured. And they are just projections, after all. The CHMURA report tells us that the number of permanent jobs in WV for the pipeline after the construction period (2 years) is 74. Did you get that? Seventy-four. Not thousands. See the article at: https://www.dom.com/library/domcom/pdfs/gas-transmission/atlantic-coast-pipeline/acp-chmura-report-091014.pdf
The environmental destruction for a 42”, high-pressure line in this type of terrain is disturbing to consider when you know what kind of damage such a line can do. Pipelines may be the “safeEST” way to deliver gas, but that doesn't make them sufficiently safe to run through our communities and backyards. In Upshur County, Dominion wants to run a class II pipe less than ½ a mile from our high school. (For reference, class I is thinnest, class IV is thickest, but there is no federally or state-mandated setback distance.)
This infrastructure is set up for export. As far as we know, setting up distribution stations to reduce the pressure sufficient to allow it safely into homes would be prohibitive. This means it would not be for a public purpose, but for private gain, and that is not sufficient to allow the use of eminent domain. Any land agent who tells you that you will lose it eventually is misrepresenting the case. Landowners can, and should, fight this in court. The taking of private property for corporate gain is contrary to the principles on which our country was founded, it is contrary to WV values, and also happens to be illegal at present.
People take statements like, “The ACP will enhance overall energy reliability in the region, bringing natural gas that will heat homes and power businesses,” (Governor Tomblin) to mean that this gas is going to be available to consumers in WV, the area where it is going through. But it is not. There are compressor stations along the route, but no distribution stations. To build one would cost a community or county approximately $1M. Most counties in WV can barely fund their volunteer fire departments – which, by the way, will be crucial when these pipelines come to town.
If Dominion wants us to cooperate and support this project, then they are going to have to come forward with some believable figures on jobs, taxes, and how they intend to repair the community after an explosion or a negative-impact-on-water event. As it is, with their limited liability and self-insuring, it is difficult to see how they would have the money to cover such a disaster, or even feel the responsibility they claim to feel for all the communities along the 500-mile stretch. And I don't see West Virginia requiring anything more than promises.
The FERC has been accused of rubber stamping gas infrastructure projects. Considering the thousands of pages of letters of concern from the true stakeholders in this, the public, which includes experts such as lawyers and hydrogeologists, civic engineers and safety personnel, we should be concerned. If you aren't concerned, you need to do some more research.
Currently, we have a climate crisis on our hands, the gas industry is tanking, and renewables are coming in fast and hard. An article out Sept. 18 from the Washington Post has the headline, “Pentagon bets heavily on sun, wind with major energy projects.” In WV, our gas-heavy culture has been told that we can't go solar, but Burlington, VT, is now powered by 100% renewables, including solar and hydropower. WV has a bit more sun than Burlington, and we have water, too. In fact, we are a water producer. Instead of destroying it, we could harness it and keep it clean.
The U.N. Report on World Water Development (2015) says that by 2050, the manufacturing sector will increase its need for water by 400%, agriculture will need to produce 60% more food, and the intensity of water-related disasters is going to rise significantly due to climate change. The energy industry is generally water-intensive, and these needs will only grow. Without an immediate change in the way we get our energy, we are setting ourselves up for large-scale, global failure.
As a state that produces water for 13 states and forms the headwaters for 8 major rivers, West Virginia should be at the head of the movement toward renewables. We could save our water, preserve our heritage, and protect the public health, but this is not a battle that can be won from our easy chairs. We must turn off the TV and get out front if we are to have any kind of a habitable future. Consider yourself duly notified. If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
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