By Peggy Mackenzie
Plans are forming for two natural gas pipeline to cut a swath through Fayette, Greenbrier, Summers, and Monroe counties, according to Elise Keaton, an outreach and education coordinator sponsored by the Greenbrier River Watershed Association.
The EQT/NextEra Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Transco Appalachian Connector Pipeline (ACP) would begin in Wetzel or Marshall County and join the existing Transco Atlantic Pipeline in Pittsylvania County, VA. Both pipelines have the potential to transport up to two billion cubic feet per day of natural gas.
Keaton and attorney Joe Lovett, with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, have been holding public meetings throughout the areas where these pipeline paths are proposed to get people informed and engaged now while the pipelines are applying for their certification requirements with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and other federal agencies.
Trillium Performing Arts Collective hosted one such meeting at the Lewis Theatre on Tuesday, Jan. 6, attended by around 30 people. Keaton and Lovett apprised the two landowners present and other concerned citizens of the impacts on the land and the communities as well as how to challenge the pipelines and make their views known.
MVP is currently requesting survey permission from property owners for various routing options within a “study corridor,” as cited on the pipeline fact sheet Keaton handed out. Keaton and Lovett recommended landowners respond with comments to FERC’s certificate process because FERC is the agency which issues certificates for the right of eminent domain to drillers. The public has the right to comment during the pre application “scoping” process and on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
In the handout Keaton disbursed, the instructions to make comments are as follows: Go to https://ferconline.ferc.gov/ and click on “e-Comment.” Fill in the information field and look for an email from FERC. Click on the link in that email and enter the docket number for the pipeline you wish to comment on (Mou8ntain Valley Pipeline PF 15-3). If a hand-written comment is preferred, the following address was given: Ms. Kimberly Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Room 1 A, Washington, DC 20426
Lovett pointed out that FERC rarely, if ever, denies a certification request for the right of eminent domain to drillers.
If FERC grants the certificate to MVP, MVP will acquire the right of eminent domain. That certification requires one to two years for FERC to process. Until then, Lovett said, a landowner may exclude anyone from his or her property by posting, fencing or just telling them to leave unless they have a deed, lease, right of way, right of eminent domain or some other interest that would include the right to conduct a survey. In other words, a pipeline company’s right to survey must be backed by a legal document, according to Lovett.
Keaton said impacts to landowners will likely include diminished value to property, resulting in a tax loss for those localities. Property sales potentially would also be diminished. MVP will make a one-time payment for an easement. Property owners would still be responsible for property taxes on that land.
The MVP project will include up to four compressor stations. Compressor stations-necessary to push the gas through the pipeline-are large, noisy and leak hydrocarbons into the air which would disrupt the use of land near and around them. Keaton stated there would likely be significant stress caused by constant noise and traffic. When finished, the pipeline will require frequent maintenance checks all along the route via motorized vehicle and visual checks by air.
According to a recent article in the Highlands Voice, pipeline construction on the scale of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, proposed to cut through the Monongahela National Forest, like the MVP, will cross steep forested mountain landscapes. This has apparently not been done before in the United States. The pipeline routes won’t travel along the ridge tops or in a hollow between mountains; instead, they will cross the ridges perpendicularly, up one side and down the other, clear cutting as they go.
Keaton showed slide projection imagery of pipeline excavations of eight to 12-foot-deep trenches and the bulldozing of a 125 to 200-foot-wide construction corridor straight up and down multiple steepsided forested mountains. Heavy-duty transport roads and staging areas for 40-foot pipe sections and large earth-moving equipment were shown which required forest clearing, surface compaction, blasting through bedrock, and excavation through or under streams, wetlands, and riparian groundwater. Keaton said pipeline construction over unstable and hydrologically sensitive karst features, including sinkhole fields and sinking streams were also likely.
Appalachian Mountain Advocates, having for years fought against coal mining, is now addressing the negative impacts of natural gas drilling.
“I’m glad to see coal coming to an end,” Lovett stated in his opening remarks. “But if you think coal was bad for West Virginia, wait’til you see what natural gas will do to it. Our government is doing everything it can to support fracking.” [See break-out box]
Infrastructure, Lovett says, is what has perpetuated coal mining in West Virginia. Without the railroads or highways, coal would not be viable here. And that’s what the pipelines are for natural gas-infrastructure.
Four separate gas companies have plans to build their own pipeline across the state and all are coming from the same area. Lovett hopes to argue the point that four pipelines will create four separate corridors across the state when one would suffice. FERC, he said, must show a real need for each pipeline.
Lovett also addressed the eventuality that a pipeline will cross into Greenbrier County. Landowners, he said, don’t have to take what the pipeline people offer when they come to survey. The diminution of the whole value of a property is what is at stake, not just the value of the portion of land taken by the easement. He offered to represent individuals in this process and, he insists, property owners should confer with a lawyer first before signing anything.
“We’ve been hearing for years that coal is running out,” said Lovett. But coal operators have gotten more effective at mining coal. The same thing will happen to natural gas drilling.
For more information, contact Greenbrier River Watershed Association: email@example.com or call at 304-647-4792. Or contact the Mid-Atlantic Responsible Energy Project: www.marepro ject.org