Charlotte Joins the Global Frackdown

Thanks to the great folks that spoke about the dangers of fracking Saturday at the Piedmont Natural Gas headquarters! Check out some photos from the Charlotte Global Frackdown event.

At the end of the event we shared information about some important upcoming environmental and social justice events. Click below to download a copy of the handout.

Couldn’t make the event but still want to take action? Great! Please take action to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground and Show Solidarity on Global Frackdown Day!

4QT Events4QT 2014 Mecklenburg Environmental Social Justice Events 2

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Show Solidarity on Global Frackdown Day!

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Tell President Obama to protect our communities and public lands from fracking.

Take action!

Take action!

Today, hundreds of communities around the world are hosting events in celebration of Global Frackdown Day. Thousands of messages will be sent to our world leaders demanding they take action to protect our climate and our communities from dirty fossil fuels like fracked oil and gas. Add your voice and be part of Global Frackdown Day, too!

There’s no question about it — fracking near our homes, schools, and on our public lands is detrimental to our health as well as our air and water quality. When a drilling rig is just hundreds of feet from your backyard, we have a problem. When drilling rigs light up the night sky on our public lands, we have a problem. When a community’s drinking water is polluted with fracking chemicals, we have a problem. The answer is simple, though — we must keep dirty fuels like fracked oil and gas in the ground.

Tell President Obama to protect our communities and public lands from dirty and dangerous fracking.

On Global Frackdown Day, you can join the thousands of people who are demanding that their interests — clean air and water and protected lands — be the priority for every elected official and governing agency. Together, we can send a strong message: we are more important than the fracking industry. Please take a moment to send your message to President Obama today.

Thanks for all that you do,

Lawson LeGate
Co-lead, Dirty Fuels Campaign
Sierra Club

P.S. Six letters are even better than one! Please share this email with five of your friends and family so we can send a strong message to President Obama.

Join Us for the Charlotte Global Frackdown on Oct 11!

Global Frackdown Oct 11 2014

Charlotte Global Frackdown

October 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM
Piedmont Natural Gas Corporate Office
4720 Piedmont Row Drive
Charlotte, NC 28210

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RSVP at: https://actionnetwork.org/events/charlotte-global-frackdown

Make your signs and join us on Saturday!

Facking Slogans

RSVP today at: https://actionnetwork.org/events/charlotte-global-frackdown

Piedmont Natural Gas, ALEC and Political Influence

Join us this Saturday, October 11th, at 12:00 noon as we gather to Keep North Carolina Frack Free. RSVP today and make your signs!

Global Frackdown 4Piedmont Natural Gas Corporate Office 4720 Piedmont Row Drive, Charlotte, NC 28210

RSVP at: https://actionnetwork.org/events/charlotte-global-frackdown

Piedmont Natural Gas Website Promotes ALEC

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Fracking Rules in North Carolina Tied to Koch, Halliburton, and ALEC

Jesse Coleman, Greenpeace

05/19/2014

A new bill proposed in North Carolina would make it a felony offense for first responders, doctors, or public safety officials to disclose the ingredients of fracking fluid. Fracking fluid is the mix of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, a process used by the oil and gas industry to break apart underground shale rock formations, releasing the fossil fuels held inside. Chemicals in frack fluid have been found to be toxic and carcinogenic. First responders found guilty of disclosing the contents of fracking fluid face jail time and heavy fines under the proposed legislation.

The three republican state senators that proposed the bill have close ties to the oil and gas industry and industry lobbyists McguireWoods. McGuireWoods, a lobbying firm that represents Halliburton, Koch Industries, and other oil and gas interests, donated to all three senators.

Bob Rucho: Top contributors to Rucho’s campaign include Piedmont Natural Gas, and McguireWoods.

Andrew Brock: Brock received money from Duke Energy, a North Carolina based utility with interests in natural gas, and McGuireWoods.

Buck Newton: Newton also received money from Duke energy and McGuireWoods.

Fracking Industry Lobbyists a Powerful Force in North Carolina

The shale industry’s control over fracking chemical disclosure legislation in North Carolina has been under particular scrutiny in recent weeks, after a cache of emails revealed that Halliburton, Koch Industries, and other fracking industry interests had close ties to officials responsible for writing fracking rules.

A cache of emails obtained by Greenpeace revealed the cozy relationship between the hydraulic fracturing industry and North Carolina‘s Mining and Energy Commission, the official body responsible for chemical disclosure rules.

The Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) was set up after an errant vote by a state senator legalized fracking in North Carolina. Because the state had not seen oil and gas drilling in recent history, the Mining and Energy Commission was tasked with writing oil and gas regulations, specifically for fracking. The 15 members of the MEC propose regulations for fracking, which are then passed on to the North Carolina legislature to be turned into law.

Halliburton’s Hand

Halliburton has played a significant role in shaping potential fracking regulations in North Carolina. In March of 2013, the Commissioners approved a chemical disclosure bill in committee which would have required fracking companies to disclose to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) the chemical ingredients of frack fluid, many of which are extremely toxic. However, Halliburton, a major fracking services company, raised some reservations which killed the bill, as AP reporter Michael Biesecker confirmed:

In an interview with AP, Mining and Energy Commission Chairman Jim Womack acknowledged that before deciding to delay the vote, he spoke with a senior Halliburton executive.

Jim Womack

Jim Womack

“They indicated to me in a phone conversation that there may be other options than what was written in that rule,” Womack said.

The bill was taken off the agenda by Womack, and sent back to be rewritten by the chemical disclosure committee.
Commissioner Womack himself is not worried about water contamination from fracking. He once said:

“You’re more likely to have a meteorite fall from the sky and hit you on the head than you are to contaminate groundwater with fracking fluid percolating up from under the ground.”

Halliburton has always cast a long shadow over the MEC. Commissioner Vikram Rao was at Halliburton for over 30 years, ultimately as the company’s Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer.  He maintains a significant financial stake in Halliburton, and also has over $10,000 invested in BioLargo, a company involved in disposal of fracking wastewater.

Rao has also called the idea of disclosing the contents of frackfluid “a joke.”

Documents obtained by Greenpeace also reveal that the shale industry was close with one commissioner in particular.

George Howard, the pro-fracking conservationist

George Howard

George Howard

George Howard serves as vice chairman of the MEC, and as the chairman of the chemical disclosure committee, which is tasked with creating regulations for frack fluid and other fracking chemicals. He was appointed by North Carolina’s Senate President Pro-Tem Philip E. Berger to serve in one of two “conservation” slots on the MEC. Berger received $46,700 in campaign contributions from fracking interests between 2009 and 2011.

In his tenure as Mining and Energy Commissioner, George Howard has been a strong proponent of hydraulic fracturing. He has said that public fears around fracking are exaggerated and that responding to public pressure is “pandering.” He has also claimed “it is physically impossible for hydraulic fracturing – the full industry term for fracking – to contaminate underground aquifers.”

In addition to serving as commissioner for the MEC, Howard is the founder and CEO of Restoration Systems, an environmental remediation company. Through Restoration Systems, Howard has a significant financial stake in the fracking industry, including a multi-million dollar shale play project in Pennsylvania. Howard has also invested in the area of North Carolina most likely to be leased by fracking companies.

Howard is connected to other top regulators, especially John Skvarla, the Head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), who was president of Restoration Systems before becoming an environmental regulator. DENR would be the agency responsible for enforcing fracking laws recommended by the MEC.

Halliburton/Koch Industries Lobbyist Pushed ALEC fracking bill

Documents obtained by Greenpeace include correspondence between George Howard and various representatives of the oil and gas industry during the creation of the first chemical disclosure bill. Howard had multiple meetings with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and spoke with high-ranking members of the American Natural Gas Association (ANGA). Howard specifically requested help from Energy In Depth (EID), an oil and gas front group run by the PR firm FTI Consulting and funded by the fracking industry. Howard asked Steve Everley, the spokesman for EID and an FTI Consulting operative, to help him prepare for a MEC meeting on chemical disclosure.

Bo Heath

Bowen Heath

Although George Howard met with and solicited information from multiple shale industry groups, one lobbyist was particularly influential.  Bowen Heath, who represents Halliburton, Koch Industries, and various other oil and gas interests for the lobbying firm McGuireWoods, had unparalleled access to the Commission. Emails reveal a chummy relationship between George Howard and Heath, who spent evenings together and went for beers in the afternoons.

Heath used that access to advocate for a fracking chemical disclosure system that allows generous exemptions for chemicals that companies deem “trade secrets.”

Heath provided a fracking chemical disclosure bill  to Howard that the shale industry and its political allies previously passed in Colorado. The Colorado bill was based on a model bill from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded group dedicated to passing legislation approved by ALEC’s corporate funders, including fracking companies like Chesapeake Energy. Bo Heath has longstanding ties to ALEC, and has attended ALEC annual meetings.

A New York Times investigation found that the Colorado chemical disclosure bill was the handiwork of one ALEC funder in particular, ExxonMobil.

As part of the push for the ALEC fracking bill passed in Colorado, Bo Heath arranged for Colorado ex-governor Bill Ritter to fly down to North Carolina to meet with George Howard and the MEC. The AP confirmed that Ritter’s fees and expenses were not paid by the MEC, and Bo Heath’s lobbying group refused to comment on Ritter’s funding.

Hallmarks of the ALEC fracking bill include generous exemptions from disclosure for “trade secrets,” and reliance on the FracFocus website for disclosing chemicals to the public. FracFocus’s operational costs are paid for by the oil and gas industry lobbying groups American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA). FracFocus was found to be “severely lacking” as a regulatory tool by a recent Harvard study.

Heath continued to advocate for the industry/ALEC approach to chemical disclosure, and even brought in a key member of FracFocus, Mike Paque. Paque is the executive director of the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC). The GWPC has long been an ally of the oil and gas industry, receiving funding from the American Petroleum Institute and other industry affiliates. Reports produced by GWPC are the backbone of the oil and gas industry’s claims about the safety of fracking. The GWPC also runs  the FracFocus website, and advocates for its use.

Taking up his drinking buddy’s suggestion, George Howard selected Paque as an expert witness for the MEC. Paque presented the industry-funded FracFocus website in an unrecorded meeting on December 18, 2012.

The New Bill Further Limits Disclosure

In the end, even though the bill that George Howard passed through committee was shot down by Jim Womack and Halliburton, it contained most of what Bo Heath and other industry lobbyists wanted. It used the API, ANGA funded website FracFocus for disclosure of chemicals, and exempted chemicals deemed trade secrets from being disclosed to the public on that website. However, Halliburton killed the bill because it required disclosure of all chemicals to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The bill, which has passed through the MEC committee and is headed for ratification in the State House of North Carolina, included a requirement to use the FracFocus website, following the ALEC fracking model legislation passed in multiple states. And like those states, trade secrets are not disclosed to the state, or the public. The bill proposed by State Senators Rucho, Newton, and Brock, would add harsh penalties to the disclosure bill approved by the MEC.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jesse-coleman/fracking-rules-in-north-c_b_5352907.html

 

ROBERT REDFORD: “Fracking Puts Our Drinking Water at Risk” (So Submit Comments on the NC Fracking Rules)

Just 2 days left (midnight, Sept 30th) to submit comments on the proposed NC fracking rules!

Submit Written Comments on Fracking Rules

Don’t forget, the Sept. 30th deadline for submitting written comments on the fracking rules is tomorrow! Check out the Frack Freee NC resource page here, for more information and bullet points to focus your comments on the rules.

To send a quick comment, go to Last Call for Fracking Comments – Sept 30th!

For more detailed taking points to really make an impression, click below and write and send a personal message!

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Last Call for Fracking Comments – Sept 30th!

North Carolina Chapter Sierra Club

Friends,

Thousands of North Carolinians showed up and spoke up during public hearings on fracking this summer. But we need you to speak up too!

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Click here to let the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) know that the proposed rules do not do enough to protect our communities and water supplies!

The legislature promised that North Carolina would have the strongest fracking rules in the country; however, the proposed rules are far from acceptable. The MEC’s proposed rules would allow for fracking permits to be issued without a clear solution for safely disposing of wastewater from fracking operations. 

The only way the MEC will add protections and standards for toxic wastewater is if enough people send in comments urging them to address this missing part of the rules.

This is why we need YOU to stand up for strong protections from fracking for North Carolina – click here to submit your comment to the MEC today!

Together, we’ll make sure the MEC realizes that North Carolinians expect rules that are the strongest in the country.

Click here to send in your comments today!

Thanks for all that you do,

Jacquie Ayala

Associate Organizer for the NC Sierra Club

 

P.S. – The public comment period closes on Sept. 30, so send in your comments today to make sure the MEC knows that North Carolinians truly deserve the best rules in the country!

Duke Energy/Dominion/Piedmont Natural Gas Pipeline – Keystone XL of the East?

New coverage of the Duke Energy/Dominion/Piedmont Natural Gas Pipeline debate. In this update:

  • Shale Gas Impacts in North Carolina
  • Get Ready for Keystone Pipeline 2?
  • Plans for natural gas pipeline worry some in Nash County
  • Dominion pipeline event brings out hundreds of Augusta County residents
  • Augusta residents learn how to fight the pipeline
  • Dominion discusses aspects of pipeline project with Nelson residents

If you missed the other updates, check them out at They’re Building A Pipeline Song – Help Protect the Wilderness (Sept 15), Duke Energy/Dominion/Piedmont Natural Gas Pipeline – Communities Voice Opposition (Sept 15), Duke Energy/Dominion Pipeline – N.C. Public Meetings, VA/WV Local Government and Community Reactions (Sept 13),  Opposition Growing in Virginia Over Atlantic Coast Pipeline (Sept 12), Update on Duke Energy/Dominion Fracking Gas Pipeline (Sept 10) and  “Fracking boom prompts $5B Dominion gas pipeline” (Sept 7).

Shale Gas Impacts in North Carolina
Thanks to Frack Free NC for this map (click to enlarge).  A picture is worth a thousand words…
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Get Ready for Keystone Pipeline 2?
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposal has the potential to become the Keystone XL of the East.
A. Barton Hinkle | September 15, 2014

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline fits that bill. Nevertheless Glen Besa, who heads the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, responded to the pipeline announcement by saying he felt as though he’d been “punched in the gut.” Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action network, said McAuliffe had made a “huge mistake.” The Southern Environmental Law Center said it was “disappointed.”

On the other hand, the fact that Dominion always meets opposition does not mean its opponents are always wrong. And one of their biggest concerns also carries a lot of weight: the potential for the company to ride roughshod over small landowners through eminent domain.

As a regulated utility, Dominion inhabits a weird gray area between private enterprise and public agency. Members of the public don’t elect its officers, and its employees are private citizens. Yet thanks to state and federal law, Dominion surveyors can enter private property without permission. What’s more, in cases where landowners decline an easement, the company can seize the property it wants. That raises several worries.

Take the right-of-way. Will Dominion use herbicides to keep it clear? If so, that could ruin a farmer’s chance of being certified organic. A property owner who wanted to put a driveway across the right-of-way might have to get Dominion’s permission—if she can. And if Dominion needed to check the pipeline, its employees could cut across her property, again without her permission.

The utilities want to spend as little as possible. That might lead to cases such as the one a few years ago in Wythe County. Duke Energy offered $60,000 for some property belonging to Harold Hart and Larry Ball. They declined, the case went to court—and the jury said they actually deserved $1.8 million. Sometimes it pays to stand firm.

Then there’s the question of “quick take”—a process by which the utility takes immediate possession of the property it wants, and settles up later. This keeps a project from being held up while the courts go through the regular eminent-domain process, which is more time-consuming. But it also puts the landowner at a disadvantage.
Read the full report at: http://reason.com/archives/2014/09/15/get-ready-for-keystone-pipeline-2

Plans for natural gas pipeline worry some in Nash County
WRAL Sept 15, 2014

Nash County Pipeline

In addition to Nash, seven other North Carolina counties – Cumberland, Halifax, Johnston, Northampton, Robeson, Sampson and Wilson – would be affected by the project.

Some Red Oak residents worry that the proposed pipeline could reduce property values, threaten water supplies and pose environmental risks.

John Huffman, who owns a 20-acre plot of land in the community, is among those who are concerned.

“The issue you worry about is breaches,” he said Monday. “These things blow up.”

But Red Oak Commissioner Lavelle Langley says it could cost his town $1 million to tap into the pipeline, and he questions how it will benefit the community.

“It doesn’t help us a bit. It’s not going to bring us any jobs – not in this county,” Langley said. “I wouldn’t think (it would) because there’s going to be outside contractors putting it in.”

Gas is being relied upon to generate more of the nation’s electricity in recent years because new domestic supplies have lowered its price and because natural gas burns cleaner than coal.

It does, however, have environmental drawbacks. Experts say that when gas leaks or is otherwise released directly into the atmosphere it heats the planet much faster than carbon dioxide. Fracking, the drilling technique that has led to increased U.S. supplies, has raised concerns about water use, water contamination and other issues.
Read the full report at: http://www.wral.com/plans-for-natural-gas-pipeline-worry-some-in-nash-county/13985101/#DbZFJovyHkS3Y4vg.99


Dominion pipeline event brings out hundreds of Augusta County residents

AFP editor Chris Graham
Sept 15, 2014

Augusta Pipeline 2

Critics have pointed to concerns over infringement on landowners’ rights along the proposed pipeline path and environmental impacts on western Virginia, with the George Washington National Forest in Augusta County a particular point of focus.

Bobby Whitescarver, the former USDA district conservationist in the Shenandoah Valley, and now the principal in Natural Resources Management LLC, an environmental consultancy, raised another concern, with the karst topography in western Virginia, and the abundance of underground caves and sinkholes in the region.

“It’s like building on swiss cheese on top of a surface of sand. Putting rigid steel pipe on terrain that could subside is a recipe for environmental disaster,” said Whitescarver, who writes and edits an environmental blog at GettingMoreontheGround.com.

Whitescarver said that according to the maps of the proposed pipeline path made available to this point by Dominion, “they’re going to put this through at least 30 known sinkholes, and we’re just talking about the known sinkholes.”

“And in my years as district conservationist here, we saw new sinkholes open up occasionally. I’ve personally seen new sinkholes open up that could literally swallow an 18-wheeler,” Whitescarver said.

Dominion could submit formal plans to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission related to the pipeline as early as this fall, according to Neville. If that were to be the case, final approval could come in the second or third quarter of 2016, with construction to begin at that point on schedule to conclude in 2018.

At least one critic hopes the process leads to the pipeline never seeing anything resembling a green light from the federal government.

“My hope is that it doesn’t get built. That’s my first priority,” Whitescarver said. “Just think about what would happen if we put $4 billion into solar power instead of putting it into fossil fuels. We’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Referencing the claims made by the governor and other project boosters regarding the economic benefit of Virginia, Whitescarver pointed out that the pipeline is not likely “to benefit Augusta County in any way.”

“It’s not going to benefit the landowners who are impacted by this pipeline. It’s not going to impact our tax base,” Whitescarver said. “They’re trying to ram this down our unsuspecting throats so they can export it and make more money. It’s Robin Hood in reverse. The rich taking from the poor and giving more to themselves. This is corporate greed at its worst.”
Read the full report at: http://augustafreepress.com/dominion-pipeline-event-brings-hundreds-augusta-county-residents/

Augusta residents learn how to fight the pipeline
September 7, 2014 7:00 am
BY BOB STUAR

Augusta Pipeline
Saturday’s meeting at the Augusta County Government Center was a tutorial for county residents on how to fight and ultimately prevail against the construction of Dominion Resources’ proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

For two hours, a cadre of legal and conservation experts and concerned residents of Augusta County marched to the platform to tell a crowd of more than 150 how to fight back against the encroachment of their land.

Speakers told the crowd how they can write and lobby the permitting agency for the pipeline — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The crowd was also given tips on legal steps they could take to protect their land, and the possible damage to their land values and the environment if the pipeline is built.

Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Greg Buppert said the permitting agency desperately needs public input. “I think FERC needs to hear from you and how the pipeline will harm you and your property and will harm all the things that are special about Augusta County,” he said. “If FERC doesn’t hear from you the balance is already tipped in favor of Dominion.”

The crowd received further encouragement to contact FERC from Bobby Whitescarver, the retired Augusta County conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a Swoope farmer.

“What Dominion is trying to ram down our throats, our forests and farms will fragment our forests forever,” said Whitescarver. He said beyond this battle, legal and constitutional reform is necessary. Whitescarver urged those in the path of the pipeline to obtain conservation easements for their property, saying the easements would provide another hurdle to the pipeline.

Taylor Cole, a Deerfield resident and chairman of the Augusta County Planning Commission, said his research has shown him that the potential of pipelines present “no upside for us and potentially a lot of downside.”

Cole said the one-time payment to property owners by Dominion will not come close to matching the “costs that go on for decades and decades.” He said the pipeline would affect property values and could affect mortgages.

“Dominion can be defeated. Writing FERC is vitally important,” Geary said. He offered information about a Norfolk law firm that fights eminent domain cases, and told the crowd that the firm doesn’t bill for services unless a suit is won.

Nancy Sorrells, a former Augusta County supervisor and co-chair of the Augusta County Alliance, said Dominion’s path for the project goes through a part of the Shenandoah Valley that has been vulnerable to major flooding, erosion and mudslides. “Dominion could not have made a worse decision,” said Sorrells of the projected pipeline path.

Buppert said the timeline for the seeking of the federal approval would start in 2015, when Dominion officially seeks a permit from FERC. He said the agency will then seek public comments regarding the project’s environmental impact and said final consideration of the permit would come in 2016.

“The process hasn’t started for Dominion, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write to FERC,” Buppert said.
Read the full report at: http://www.dailyprogress.com/newsvirginian/augusta-residents-learn-how-to-fight-the-pipeline/article_fbbba534-35f8-11e4-b4ed-0017a43b2370.html


Dominion discusses aspects of pipeline project with Nelson residents

Nate Delesline III
Sept 16, 2014

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would begin in West Virginia, run through Virginia and end in North Carolina. During construction, officials said a 125-foot right-of-way would be required. Once construction is completed, a 75-foot right-of-way would be required to maintain the pipeline, which would be between three and five feet below ground, depending on the topography of the area and intended use of the land above.

As night fell and the crowd inside the meeting room grew, a handful of protestors holding anti-pipeline signs next to U.S. 29 drew occasional horn blasts from passing motorists. Back inside, Nelson County resident Roy White paused after studying one of the large maps.

“I wish I felt I could trust large corporations and government, but where I am in my life now, I’ve learned — painfully — that you can’t always trust them,” White said.

Nelson Supervisor Connie Brennan said Tuesday night that she’s concerned some of the community’s poorer residents might not have the time or energy to speak up to get their concerns on the record. The Nelson board recently passed a resolution opposing the project.

“I think it is a big burden on our community,” Brennan said. According to a recent project economic analysis, Brennan said projected annual state tax revenue after 2019 is $233,027.

“If the state is only going to get $233,000, what do you think little Nelson County is going to get?” said Brennan, who added that residents have expressed concerns about quality of life and safety.

“We think property values will diminish, and we already know of some Realtors who have contracts pulled out when people found out the pipeline was coming near the properties,” said Brennan, who has lived in Nelson County since 1974 and is in her fourth term as a supervisor.

Marc Chanin, who lives off Route 635 in the Glass Hollow area of the county, said he’s very concerned and frustrated that the pipeline’s path might run near or through protected national park lands such as the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“They should find an area that’s not going to hurt our environment the way this is. I believe there are already other pipelines that are already in existence where they can put this pipeline in conjunction with the other ones if they already have right-of-way,” Chanin said.
Read the full report at: http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/dominion-discusses-aspects-of-pipeline-project-with-nelson-residents/article_75f45574-3e02-11e4-85aa-001a4bcf6878.html