Today, we visited the Upshur County Commission with a request for a committee to study setback distance. The request read thus:
January 21, 2015
Whereas, the Robert T. Stafford Act requires that there be a Hazard Mitigation Plan that covers natural hazards and recommends that technological hazards be included, and
Whereas, a 42” diameter, high pressure, natural gas pipeline constitutes a public safety hazard, and
Whereas, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is proposed to run close to residential and public areas, including high consequence areas, in Upshur County, and
Whereas, the ACP is the largest diameter, highest pressure, natural gas pipeline ever attempted in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, making this a critical potential hazard, and
Whereas, the Department of Homeland Security defines natural gas pipelines as critical infrastructure,
Whereas, there is no federal standard for pipeline setback distance, and
Whereas, the liability and responsibility for setback distance rests with county government and hazard mitigation planning is based on setback distance,
Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, the Airport Authority, and LEPC request that the Upshur County Commission form a committee to establish a safe and prudent setback distance for pipelines in our community. This should be based on diameter, pressure, terrain, population density near the pipeline, proximity of critical infrastructure (such as police barracks and the airport), access, vulnerability, and other considerations.
After such a committee is established, and a report produced, the Lewis-Upshur-Gilmer LEPC will use this information to produce the required Hazard Mitigation Plan, Evacuation Plans, and Protocols, in such time as to allow enough time for the community at large to be informed of such plans, and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to move the route to a more advisable location should this prove necessary before the permit for construction is issued from the FERC, leaving enough time for Dominion and partners to make changes deemed necessary by the committee.
April Keating, Chair, Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance
Kevin Campbell, Co-Chair of LEPC
Rich Clemens, Upshur Airport Authority
Disappointingly, the Upshur County Commission denied our request to form a committee to decide on setback distance for pipelines, which would have been the first step in formulating a disaster plan for the region should a leak, fire, or explosion happen on the ACP. Without a plan, FEMA would not offer financial assistance to an affected community. I informed the commission of this.
Ben Hardesty was present. JC Raffety, former president of the commission, was absent.
Before we spoke, Commission President Terry Cutright said he wanted to tell us right off the bat he was pro-gas, pro-business, pro-pipeline, and pro-development, and he would not do anything to stop the pipeline. He said he thought it would bring jobs and "progress" to our community.
I explained how the jobs numbers were hard to verify and that is why we wanted a third party study done, but that even by Dominion's own figures, the number of permanent jobs in the state of WV for the ACP was projected at 74. Dominion likes to throw around a figure of 17,000 jobs, but this is for three states and only during the construction period. I explained how renewable energy and energy efficiency jobs would bring 2-3 times that number and possibly more to our area, that the market was going that way, and even large companies like GE and Dominion had investments in wind and solar. Hardesty confirmed that.
Kevin Campbell of the Lewis-Upshur LEPC told the commission about his telephone conversation with Homeland Security about the Stonewall pipeline, and indicated he would continue to communicate with that agency over this situation. Stonewall is a 36" line; strangely, WV DHS were not aware, and were disconcerted that gas was running in that line already, without any evacuation plan in place. Do we want this scenario with a 42" line running only 1200 feet from our police barracks and 2200 feet from our high school?
Predictably, Commissioner Cutright asked me if I had been able to get my own green energy system, or was I still using gas/oil/coal? I responded that I was working on it, but was still tethered. He gave a chuckle and made a side comment that seemed to indicate that somehow I must be a hypocrite. Ad hominem is a classical logical fallacy.
I guess I really should have asked Commissioner Cutright how creating a committee to look after the safety of the community would harm or stop the pipeline. Are the two mutually exclusive, and if they are, is the public official who comes out against public safety really fit to sit?