If this pipeline was something that I believed we truly needed, if I could trust that our environment is safe, if I had hard data to show that the middle of my property is the best place for this, if there was any prospect that I might get something of on-going value in return for having my property essentially taken over by another business, if I had some guarantee of safety, if I had some guarantee that if an accident occurs my costs will be reimbursed without a court battle, if the company was even honest and up-front with us, sharing vital information in a timely and open manner, I might feel differently. However, given the situation, I am left feeling that what I thought was a basic American value of and respect for personal property is a farce. When a company that claims to provide public benefit but is really primarily focused on earning as much money as possible can unilaterally take over my property, especially property that is the basis of a long-term business with prospects for the future, I feel cheated. Adding insult to injury, my property in Montgomery county is within 5 miles of the MVP Compression Station.
The eminent domain laws were not written to allow property to be used for private gain. Exporting this gas means there will be private gain. For decades this country has sought energy independence. If natural gas provides that, why would we give up long term independence so that some people make more money now?
It’s time for us to have a serious discussion about how we define the public interest, how eminent domain is used, how we balance immediate and long term goals, and how private property owners are compensated when land is taken. I never thought that as an American my true property rights could be so minimal or my property and personal safety so nonchalantly ignored.
I have tried to keep this short. I could expound more on a lot of it, especially the safety. There are few 42 inch high pressure pipelines like this in service and I believe that there is a huge difference in the risk of that system compared to a 20 inch – or smaller - pipeline without high pressure. The risk we are being placed under is much higher and the loss of property value we will experience will be much greater than has occurred in the past. However, these are ignored and everything is based on evidence from the smaller, non-pressure pipelines. Both the process for approving such infrastructure and the requirements of the pipeline owners were developed for a different time and a different situation and need to be changed if we are to adhere to the principles I believe the United States holds.
You (the Roanoke Times) make the case that there is public benefit in these pipelines. I think that is a stretch akin to saying that because a proposed use will result in more tax income, it is better for all, even if it destroys an existing business that provides less income. I think that is what we passed the constitutional amendment about. These pipelines are not primarily to get a basic service to all people in all communities, earning a reasonable rate of return for little risk. Today our utilities get guaranteed high rates of return and serve those they choose as they choose, not everyone at a reasonable price. These pipelines are LLC’s. The LLC has no obligation to serve anyone. Its only obligation is to make money for its owners. Even if you say that the ACP is related to obligation to serve, the portion of the gas that will be used for that purpose is small compared with the quantity that will be moved. If all we were doing was taking care of that obligation to serve, a much smaller pipeline, without pressure, could be used and we would have less risk. When we get to the point of allowing a bigger business to take my property so that it can make more money, you can argue that more people benefit but it goes against everything I think our country stands for in terms of individual rights and individual ability to work hard and benefit from that work. My family has worked hard. Is working hard. We’ve earned what we own and we pay taxes. Now an unrelated business that does not and will not serve us is going to be allowed to take over our land, use it as it sees fit, pay us only a small one time fee for permanently changing what we can do with our own property and exposing us to huge personal safety and property risks. That is wrong.
Few permanent jobs will result from these pipelines. Most communities already have access to gas in some way. If it was going to bring new jobs, it would have happened. The huge quantity of gas required to be used and the size of industry that would be required to afford the connection would not be supported by other community resources. The growth in jobs is a fantasy. The data on which the economic benefit claimed by the companies is not verifiable. Huge assumptions are made without basis.
For me, it boils down to: Who has the right to use my property, me or someone else?