Within a matter of a few months in 2014, Virginians were reeling from news of proposals for three massive natural gas pipelines slicing through the state. If built, the pipelines would harm countless farms, streams, forests and historic sites in the commonwealth, threaten the health and safety of nearby residents and communities, and impede the growth of energy efficiency and renewable energy options.
- The 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, proposed by EQT Corp., and NextEra Energy — a 42-inch diameter pipe estimated to cost $3.5 billion — would bring gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of West Virginia through Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke and Franklin counties, and connect with existing facilities in Pittsylvania County.
- The Appalachian Connector pipeline, also 42 inches, would run roughly parallel to the Mountain Valley project. It is being proposed by Williams Company as a spur of the Transco interstate pipeline that the company operates, and would run from the Marcellus shale gas basin in West Virginia to a compressor in Pittsylvania County, Va.
- The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, at 550 miles and with an approximate price tag of $5 billion, is one of the largest such proposals in the United States. Beginning in north-central West Virginia, it would snake through 13 Virginia localities (Highland, Augusta, Nelson, Buckingham, Cumberland, Prince Edward, Nottaway, Dinwiddie, Brunswick, Greensville, and Southampton counties, and the cities of Suffolk and Chesapeake).
It would then bisect North Carolina before ending at the South Carolina border. Dominion Resources and Duke Energy are the two lead companies behind the project; Duke’s gas-burning power plants would be the primary customers and capture nearly half of the projected 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas pumped through the 42-inch diameter pipeline each day.
Virginians Say: “No Pipelines!”
Citizens all across Virginia are raising concerns about these projects — especially those who live in the affected communities. They worry the pipelines would depress land values, and they’re angry that the companies can use eminent domain to enter their property without their consent to do surveys, much less to build the lines.
They also worry the pipelines would threaten drinking water supplies — much of the proposed routes cross karst terrain, characterized by underground drainage systems and sinkholes that could allow pollution to travel far from its source. And they’re concerned the pipelines could be a precursor to opening some parts of Virginia to natural gas fracking. Already there has been interest from the gas industry to drill in Washington County, Rockingham County and in the Piedmont.
A host of community groups have sprung up to raise their voices and engage other Virginians. Two include the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, a coalition to specifically oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and Preserve the New River Valley, a group working to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
The pipelines must gain approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Forest Service, as all three would likely cross the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia, and the Atlantic Coast pipeline would also cross the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. The companies also need approval from the states’ utility commissions as well as numerous state agencies. Each point in the process will include an opportunity for public input.
Appalachian Voices is banding together with citizens, community groups and partner organizations to ensure these concerns are heard and given full consideration throughout the decision-making process.