EQT waging campaign of misinformation

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Dear Editor:

I recently read EQT Corporation’s predictions of economic impact it claims will result from the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Many residents believe EQT is waging a campaign of misinformation with unrealistic promises of economic development, tax revenue and jobs in order to garner support of local officials and the public.

I feel we all should be in favor of economic development, creating local jobs, progressive thinking and trying to improve the standard of living of all West Virginia citizens. Unfortunately, the MVP project is unlikely to help in any of these ways and will likely, in the long term, have the opposite effect. According to realtors, this project will severely reduce both the market price and marketability of properties affected by the pipeline. It may also adversely affect the values of adjacent properties. Landowners are doubly affected because they will continue to pay the same tax rate on their properties and will continue to pay all real estate tax on the property, even though EQT Corporation will own an approximate 75 foot easement across the property.

Large portions of affected properties will be rendered essentially unusable and can no longer be used as farm land. This has the potential for significant adverse economic impact in counties where agriculture is important.

This project is unlikely to create jobs for local residents. We witnessed a pipeline project in Monroe County over the past year, and it created no jobs for local residents. Columbia Gas subcontracted construction of the line to an Ohio based company that brought their own employees. In addition, any jobs statewide that are created by the MVP project are likely to be of a temporary nature, lasting only about 12-18 months until the project is finished.

EQT claims the Mountain Valley Pipeline will open the door to economic development by providing natural gas to local communities. Upon closer review of gas transport lines, such as this one, it is appears unlikely that natural gas from a transport line will be diverted to local communities and counties for their use. An EQT representative at a recent Gretna, VA, meeting explained that the MVP is a transport line only, and will not provide natural gas to local communities.

EQT indicates individual counties will receive unbelievable tax revenues. They have claimed that Monroe County “could receive up to $1.7 million yearly.” However, county officials are unable to verify or substantiate where these estimates were derived from. A more realistic amount is the initial estimate provided by the Monroe County Assessor: initially $8,000 to $ 9,000 per year, with this amount decreasing over 30 years. This figure could change somewhat, but a significantly large change is not anticipated. I would urge local officials in all counties to research and verify EQT’s claims thoroughly before endorsing this project.

The current proposed route of this pipeline is less than one mile from James Monroe High School. We have heard from engineers that a high pressure line of this nature is likely to leak at times. Every year, gas pipelines across the U.S. fail, sometimes catastrophically. A 20 inch pipeline exploded in 2012 in Sissonville, WV, resulting in a massive explosion. A definite range of the blast radius from a high-pressure gas line such as this is unknown; estimates have ranged from ½ mile to slightly over one mile. Should a 42-inch pipeline explode in close proximity to a public school, the potential consequences are unthinkable. This is an unnecessary and unacceptable risk and characterizes EQT’s disregard for public safety.

In Monroe County, the current proposed route of the pipeline travels through two protected watershed areas, one of which is the Red Sulphur Public Service District (RSPSD). The MVP passes within feet of the most sensitive “Zone of Critical Concern” of this watershed which provides water to nearly one third of Monroe County. Officials and those educated in geology/hydrology have indicated that a massive excavation in this area has the potential to disrupt underground and surface water channels permanently, potentially compromising the water supply of 4,000 to 5,000 people.

EQT Corporation has a history of questionable ethics, business practices and environmental lack of responsibility. One source reports that EQT Production (a division of EQT Corporation) is facing six criminal charges in Pennsylvania stemming from their hydraulic fracturing operation in Tioga, PA. In addition, the State Department of Environmental Protection in Pennsylvania has filed a complaint seeking a $4.5 million civil penalty against EQT Corporation for what the state called a “major pollution incident” in Tioga, PA. EQT was also defendant in a class action suit filed by several counties in Virginia.

While we definitely need economic development and more progressive thinking in West Virginia, we should not be misled into thinking the MVP project will result in significant, long term improvement. We do not gain by allowing our people and resources to be exploited for corporate profit. Any financial gain which may result either directly or indirectly from this project will be more than offset by lost revenue from land use, negative impact on real estate, negative impact on property owners’ ability to borrow against their properties and the potential for negative impact on local banks.

Local and state government officials are urged to verify EQT’s claims for accuracy. Do not be misled by EQT’s false claims and misinformation campaign.

In addition, EQT has demonstrated its disregard for public safety.

The public is urged to contact state representatives, delegates, senators and congressmen as well as local officials such as County Commissioners. Let them know you are not in favor of allowing a corporate entity exploit West Virginians for corporate profit. Take a stand against the Mountain Valley Pipeline project.

It is also important to notify the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) at http://www.FERC.gov. This is the regulatory body that will ultimately make a decision to allow the Mountain Valley Pipeline project to proceed. The Docket Number is PF 15-3 and it is needed to register comments to FERC.

Dr. Stephen M. Miller

Peterstown