This update on the Atlantic Coast pipeline includes:
- Sierra Club Press Release
- UVA scientist warns of dire environmental impacts if the proposed natural gas pipeline goes through Highland County
- SELC Press Statement on Governor McAuliffe’s Announcement on Natural Gas Pipeline
- Proposal for N.C. natural gas pipeline spawns concerns, environmental coalition
- Coalition Forms Over Proposed Dominion Pipeline
For additional information, see the previous posts Update on Duke Energy/Dominion Fracking Gas Pipeline (Sept 10, 2014) and “Fracking boom prompts $5B Dominion gas pipeline” (Sept 7, 2014)
Sierra Club Press Release:
The Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club is joining forces with the Friends of Nelson, the Augusta County Alliance and 350.org Central Virginia in opposition to the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline.
Dominion Resources plans to partner with Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources on the 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline that will stretch from Harrison County, West Virginia to Robeson County, N.C. The pipeline got the blessing of Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe last Tuesday.
The proposed project would be “a game changer” for Virginia industry and homeowners, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said last Tuesday at an announcement in the Capitol. “It will spur economic growth in all parts of the Commonwealth.”
Environmental and citizen-led community organizations in central and western Virginia have expressed strong opposition to the pipeline project. Major issues concerning the pipeline include property rights violations, property devaluation, impacts to tourism and agricultural-based economies of Nelson and Augusta Counties, public safety and environmental damage along the path of the pipeline to include contamination of local water supplies. Dominion alleges the legal right of entry to private property to survey for right-of-way easements as legislated by the General Assembly in 2004. Significant environmental damage could occur as a result of construction of the pipeline in karst topography, over mountainous terrain and through sensitive environmental areas including the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail.
The Augusta County Alliance, formed in July to oppose the pipeline and preserve the rural character of the County, has rallied hundreds of citizens who are united in opposition to the project. “We have been making a very strong case that construction of a huge, 42-inch transmission pipeline through Augusta County will actually harm our rural economic sectors due to the destructive impact on farms, forests and private and public lands, while also creating serious safety concerns, and endangering our water that supplies most of the state,” said Nancy Sorrells, co-chair of the Alliance. Augusta County is slated for 43 miles of the proposed pipeline.
The project has already drawn strong opposition in Nelson County, where about 35 miles of the pipeline would run. Homes and businesses along state Route 151 and 29 sport blue placards that say, “No pipeline.” Thirteen landowners have filed lawsuits against Dominion for violating state law regarding survey of their property. Only twenty-five percent of the affected landowners in Nelson County have agreed to the survey of their property. Opposition has been so strong that surveying in the County has been put on hold several times. “We are very discouraged by the Governor’s support of this pipeline,” said Charlotte Rea, President of Friends of Nelson. “This pipeline will bring no economic gains or permanent jobs to Nelson County but will threaten our water supplies, devalue our property, endanger public safety and deface the landscapes and mountain vistas that are beloved by Nelson County residents and tourists alike and which are the lifeblood of our economy.”
The Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club strongly opposes the proposed Dominion pipeline. “The pipeline would incentivize more fracking across the region, continue to promote the use of fossil fuels and contribute significantly to environmental damage during construction,” said Kirk Bowers, Conservation Chair of the Piedmont Group. “We intend to fight the pipeline. Future generations depend on the outcome of our resolve.”
UVA scientist warns of dire environmental impacts if the proposed natural gas pipeline goes through Highland County
August 25, 2014
At their meeting on August 19th, Highlanders for Responsible Development [HRD] chairman Lewis Freeman said their group had yet to take a formal position on the Dominion Resources Southeast Reliability Project, a natural gas pipeline that would run through parts of West Virginia and Virginia, including Highland County. Rick Webb, a member on the board of directors for HRD, a Highland County resident, and a senior scientist at the University of Virginia, has taken a formal position on the pipeline, one that is firmly in opposition.
Webb sees the pipeline putting the natural resources of the county in peril. Referring to a map of the proposed pipeline, Webb told the large crowd gathered at the Highland center that it would cross a considerable amount of sensitive habitat including sections of the George Washington national forest and Virginia wildlife management areas. Webb showed pictures of a 42” natural gas pipeline under construction in Nebraska, saying a 42 foot wide trench was excavated to allow for construction of the pipeline. Dominion is proposing to use a 42” pipeline in Pocahontas and Highland counties. Webb said the trench needed for construction could be even wider than that used in Nebraska. He said there may be no precedent for construction of such a large pipeline in steep terrain like that found in the Allegheny highlands.
42 inch pipeline under construction in Nebraska – picture courtesy of Rick Webb
The pipeline path would cross eight Highland County mountain ridges at elevations of 3000 to 4200 feet: Tamarack Ridge, Red Oak Knob, Lantz Mountain, Monterey Mountain, Jack Mountain, Doe Hill, Bullpasture Mountain and Shenandoah Mountain. It’s not just the view shed that concerns Webb; he fears the resulting forest fragmentation caused by the construction of the pipeline could have adverse impacts on the flora and fauna of the region, including the loss of dependent species, the introduction of invasive species and the loss of habitat for sensitive species such as the Indiana bat and the Cow Knob salamander.
Webb said the Indiana bat, on the endangered species list, is known to inhabit a number of caves within 50 miles of the pipeline path. Dominion may be required to get an Incidental Take Permit prior to construction. The Cow Knob salamander is protected under a forest service conservation agreement and has been observed in several areas close to the pipeline route. Webb said the pipeline would also cross most of the major streams in the county, many of which also provide native brook trout habitat.
Of special concern to Webb is the Laurel Fork watershed, describing it as one of the most highly valued wild areas in Virginia and the state’s only example of an Alleghenian ecosystem with a multitude of known state rare species.
Karst terrain is another concern according to Webb, saying 50% of the county is underlain by the porous rock formations. A large number of sinkholes have been mapped across the county, some in the vicinity of the pipeline route. Dominion has proposed to monitor springs and wells within 200 feet of the pipeline, but Webb say that’s not sufficient given this kind of terrain.
Webb claims that what sets the proposal apart from other alternatives is that the route would cross 50 miles of national forest land and other areas set aside for conservation, would cross much of the best remaining wild landscape in the state, would affect multiple high quality streams and karst hydrology and could have adverse impacts on protected species. In weighing all that he urges his fellow Highlanders to oppose the pipeline project.
Selected links to information on natural gas pipelines – courtesy of Highlanders for Responsible Development
Interstate natural gas pipeline on my land – what do I need to know? Published by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Dominion Resources link on the Southern Reliability Project
Virginia statute to permit natural gas companies to enter private property
Gas transmission lines Q & A
Natural gas pipelines – a 2011 assessment by the Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania Chapter of the impact of a new pipeline built in Bradford County, PA
Gas pipeline boom fragmenting Pennsylvania’s forests
A pipeline threatens our family land
Press Statement on Governor McAuliffe’s Announcement on Natural Gas Pipeline
Charlottesville, VA – The following is a statement from Greg Buppert, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center:
We are disappointed that the Governor pledged his support today for a major gas pipeline through Virginia’s forests, particularly in light of the potential impacts on the beloved George Washington National Forest, also known as the GW. Dominion’s proposed pipeline would traverse the Allegheny and Blue Ridge mountains through three counties (Highland, Augusta, and Nelson), as well as the Shenandoah Valley. It crosses prime recreational and biological and recreational areas in the national forest, including much of the best remaining wild landscape in Virginia. It is also proposed through one of Virginia’s most rugged landscapes, crossing numerous ridgelines over 3000 feet and raising serious questions about whether it can be built without significant damage to pristine forests and rivers.
Given these potential impacts, the project has generated a chorus of citizen opposition throughout the state. Dominion has not publically identified a customer in Highland, Nelson, and Augusta counties for the gas carried by the pipeline, and the project threatens the integrity of the region’s public lands and communities with few, if any, apparent long-term economic benefits.
In the past, Governor McAuliffe has voiced strong support for protecting the GW from other industrial development in the form of shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing. In light of the expected damaging impacts of the proposed pipeline, we urge the Governor will keep his pledge to the citizens of the Commonwealth to protect the GW, a treasured natural resource that hosts more than a million visitors annually and anchors a vital, agriculture and tourism-based economy for the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding communities.
Proposal for N.C. natural gas pipeline spawns concerns, environmental coalition
September 9, 2014
RICHMOND, Va.- Citing grave concerns, 22 conservation and environmental groups in Virginia and West Virginia are teaming up following the announcement of a proposed $5 billion natural gas pipeline that would end in Robeson County.
Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance members are fearful the path of the 550-mile energy project will trample on some of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the Eastern United States. The coalition has not taken a stand on the pipeline.The project was announced last week by Virginia’s Dominion Resources, Duke Energy and other partners. The pipeline would connect the Southeast with rich supplies of natural gas being produced in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would begin Harrison County, West Virginia, and stretch through Virginia and North Carolina.
In North Carolina, the pipeline would wind through parts of Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson and Cumberland counties before ending in Robeson County. It will run mostly underground and will be designed to transport 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas on a daily basis.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said last week that the proposed line “will bring hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity” to the state.
The project is expected to create nearly 740 jobs annually in North Carolina during the construction phase, according to the Governor’s Office. The economic impact for the state would be $680million, McCrory said.
A total of 52 permanent jobs statewide will be created after construction is complete, the Governor’s Office said.
Before work can begin, state and federal regulators must approve the project. If approved, the pipeline could be in service by late 2018.
Coalition Forms Over Proposed Dominion Pipeline
September 8, 2014
A coalition of 22 organizations from across Virginia and West Virginia has formed the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance in response to the September 2 announcement of the proposed 550-mile natural gas pipeline from Harrison County, WV, to Robeson County, NC. Dubbed the “Atlantic Coast Pipeline” by its proponents, the project is a joint venture of Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources. The companies have not yet applied for a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Contrary to recent suggestions, construction of the project is not a certainty.
The Alliance and its member organizations are gravely concerned about the proposed route of the pipeline, which could disrupt some of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the Eastern United States, including more than 50 miles of public lands in the George Washington and Monongahela national forests. Further, much of the pipeline’s path, particularly in Highland and Augusta Counties in Virginia, would be built over fragile karst topography, a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks and characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. The impact on area water supplies of a pipeline built over such unstable geological formations could be significant. It could also present serious safety hazards to the pipeline.
Alliance members are also acutely concerned that the proposed project presents substantial unjustified risks and costs for the rural communities of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge region. These communities will bear the full impact of pipeline development, including the loss of private property, damage to their scenic landscape, and the risk of pollution, with few, if any, of the long-term economic benefits touted by proponents.
Founding members of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance are:
Allegheny Highlands Alliance
Augusta County Alliance
Cooper Conservation Advisors, LLC
Cowpasture River Preservation Association
Friends of Blackwater
Friends of Nelson County
Friends of Shenandoah Mountain
Friends of the Middle River
Greenbrier River Watershed Association
Highlanders for Responsible Development
Jackson River Preservation Association
Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation
Shenandoah Valley Network
Southern Environmental Law Center
Valley Conservation Council
Virginia Wilderness Committee
West Virginia Environmental Council
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
West Virginia Rivers Coalition