FERC in the pockets of the energy industry

752

Dear Editor:
I read nearly the entire 700+ page Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) which was released in mid September. There is virtually no hope of getting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to do their job: evaluating the impacts of pipelines on citizens in a professional and unbiased way.
FERC is deep in the pockets of the energy industry. This is not surprising, since all of the commissioners appointed to FERC are former CEOs of energy companies. When they leave FERC, they go back to energy firms or they become lobbyists for Big Energy in Washington.
The FERC has never met a pipeline it does not like. In its entire history, it has denied only a single pipeline permit. It has already approved nearly 40 pipelines this year, alone.
Now FERC and the energy lobbyists have convinced Congress to create at least 10 massive energy corridors through National Parks, National Forests and other public lands in the eastern United States. These corridors will be exempt from any consideration of environmental or social effects. This is FERC’s way of ignoring the voices of local citizens, who think that public lands should be preserved and conserved for the enjoyment of future generations of Americans. Local landowners and residents will be in great peril.
Our only hope to stop the MVP may be the United States Forest Service (USFS). The same may be true for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, farther north in WV/VA. The USFS has the option to deny permission for these pipelines to cross the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in West Virginia and Virginia, so we are putting heavy pressure on them to do so.
Many people do not know that a proposal to amend the Land and Resource Management Plan for the Jefferson National Forest is buried in the recently released MVP DEIS and the accompanying NOIA (Notice of Intent and Availability). The proposal requests not only the 50-foot MVP Right of Way, but also a 500-foot-wide Designated Utility Corridor to accommodate many more pipelines and various other utility projects.
A 500-foot Utility Corridor across the Jefferson National Forest is like building a 42-Lane Superhighway through it. Such a corridor would devastate old-growth forest, the Appalachian Trail, the National Forest Roadless Area on Brush Mountain in Giles and Montgomery Counties VA, and critical water resources from the National Forest, including Peters Mountain, upon which countless landowners, municipalities, and farmers rely.
Approval of this corridor would doom the property rights of every landowner in the valleys near the federal lands on top of Peters Mountain, Sinking Creek Mountain, and Brush Mountain, including the Hans, Indian and Rich Creek Valleys in Monroe County, the Sinking Creek Valley in Craig and Giles counties, and areas in Summers, Greenbrier, and Monroe (WV), Giles, Craig and Montgomery (VA), and beyond. To appreciate the scale of this threat to landowners, consider the fact that a 500-foot corridor would wipe out a 5-acre property (a very common house lot size in our local counties) if that property was square in shape (467’ x 467’).
Any future power lines and pipelines, including the MVP and, most likely, the ACP (Atlantic Coast Pipeline) would have to cross Monroe, Summers and Greenbrier Counties to enter or exit this federally approved corridor across the Jefferson National Forest. Any number of proposed and future pipeline or power line projects that wanted to cross the National Forest would be required to use this 500 foot corridor. If the USFS approves this amendment to the forest service plan, it would ensure a similar corridor across the counties near the federal corridor.
These future utility projects would not just include natural gas, but also crude oil and other dangerous substances. No one knows what might be transported by these pipelines in the future. After all, they will be there for the next 75 years, or longer. The NOIA proposal also requested water pipelines. Could private corporations or the government be eyeing the water resources of Peters Mountain, or other sources of water in Monroe, Greenbrier and Summers Counties? Would the Greenbrier River or our many springs be safe if such a corridor is established? Maybe the water resources of Giles, Craig and Montgomery County VA, such as the New River or the Roanoke River, are on some corporation’s radar. It would have the power of eminent domain to take all private property in the path of its pipeline. The State of WV says it already owns the state’s water.
This proposal to designate a 500-foot utility corridor in the Jefferson National Forest actually originated in the USFS, not in FERC. They inserted this language to make the potential approval of a Right-of-Way Grant for the MVP consistent with a decision USFS made long ago to try to encourage co-location of utility projects. They are now realizing the potentially massive negative effects of such a corridor, and they have asked for citizens to comment specifically on this proposal.
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have each already passed bills to create at least 10 massive utility corridors through Federal lands in the eastern USA (including National Parks and National Forests): HR8 and S2012. These bills are simply awaiting conference committee negotiations and a second approval in each Congressional chamber before being forwarded for presidential signature.
Under pressure from energy lobbyists, these bills exempt both the creation of these corridors and any private or public utility projects that use these corridors from any effective review (under NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act) of their potential environmental impacts. This Congressional effort to create pre-approved utility corridors is independent of the Forest Service proposal to designate a local corridor in the Jefferson National Forest, but there would seem to be little doubt that if a local National Forest corridor comes to pass, it will be an attractive target to be designated as one of the proposed large-scale Federal Energy Corridors. And those Federal Energy Corridors could be designed to be even larger than 500 feet in width.
Please help stop this threat to the National Forest and local citizens and landowners: Sign the petition (written by Preserve Craig) at: http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/opposepipelinepermit. Or, email your comments to Forest Supervisor Joby Timm: comment-southern-georgewashington-jefferson@fs.us. Or, send a letter to Joby Timm, Forest Supervisor, with a copy to Jennifer Adams, Project Coordinator: 5162 Valleypointe Parkway, Roanoke VA 24019. Better yet, do both: send a letter and sign the petition. If you chose to only write a letter, read the petition first.
Tell them that you expect the Forest Service to do its duty to protect the Jefferson National Forest, which we all treasure, and that we do not want our forest and our communities destroyed to make a “utility superhighway” for the use of private corporations bent only on huge profits. The National Forest belongs to all Americans, so you can add your voice, regardless of where you live.
Please act now before it is too late!.
Sincerely,
Maury Johnson
Greenville, WV
(Letter completed with the assistance of Beth Covington local land owner and using the petition from Preserve Craig Inc, and a letter drafted by Dave Perry of the Blue Ridge Conservancy and a letter by Brian Murphy, Fisheries Professor at Virginia Tech.)