Environmental groups opposed to a 300-mile natural gas pipeline through Virginia called for a “community veto” of the project Thursday at a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission public scoping meeting in Chatham.
Between 75 and 100 people, including a small group of protesters, attended the 90-minute meeting at Chatham High School.
Wearing a pink hard hat and carrying a Hula Hoop to demonstrate the diameter of the proposed pipeline, Carolyn Reilly with Preserve Franklin led protesters in chanting, “Community veto; the right to say no!”
Reilly, whose family owns a farm in Franklin County, said the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens the environment, including streams flowing into the Blackwater River, the water source for Rocky Mount.
“Take no action on the Mountain Valley Pipeline application. We don’t want this pipeline,” she told federal officials.
Ian Reilly challenged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to protect residents.
“It’s inconceivable to think FERC would allow a company to take land through eminent domain to destroy my home and livelihood for private gain,” he said. “Do your jobs and don’t let this pipeline destroy our creeks, our land, and our livelihoods.”
PROTESTORS HOLD NEWS CONFERENCE
In a news conference before the meeting, Piedmont Residents in Defense of the Environment, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, and Preserve Franklin called for a 90-day extension for comments and additional public meetings on the pipeline.
Deborah Dix with PRIDE cited concerns about water and air pollution, and pointed out digging could disturb uranium deposits in Pittsylvania County.
“Is this the American way: to have our property rights violated and our water polluted so that private corporations can make a profit?” said Dix, who lives in Blairs. “FERC should just say no to this pipeline.”
Kate Dunnagan, a community organizer for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, raised concerns about air pollution from compressor stations along the proposed pipeline.
If approved, the pipeline would run from Wetzel County, W. Va., through southwest Virginia to Pittsylvania County and connect with Williams’ Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company’s compressor station in Chatham.
According to Dunnagan, compressor stations, which use massive engines to pump natural gas along the pipeline, emit dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen, formaldehyde, and other chemicals.
“Fossil fuel is a dinosaur,” said Dunnagan, “and this pipeline is an attempt to export the last of the nation’s fossil fuel reserves to overseas markets. American energy independence from fracking is a myth. Once this gas is gone, it’s gone, and the damage that comes from its extraction, transport, and combustion will be permanent.”
Holding orange and white striped signs proclaiming “Roadblock,” environmental groups called for a stop to the pipeline in favor of renewable energy like wind and solar.
“This pipeline represents a massive assault on the environment and the communities along the proposed routes,” Dunnagan said. “We’re calling for a community veto. We have the right to say no.”
Claiming there is no public benefit from the pipeline, she urged federal officials to safeguard landowners’ rights and deny a certificate of public convenience and necessity.
FEDERAL SCOPING MEETINGS
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold six public scoping meetings as part of its environmental impact statement on the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
A meeting in Elliston in Montgomery County last Tuesday attracted an outspoken, and at times rowdy, crowd of several hundred people, mostly landowners opposed to the pipeline.
The remaining scoping meetings are in West Virginia.
The purpose of the meetings is to seek comments on the pipeline’s potential environmental effects.
“We will use the comments we receive during scoping to shape the environmental impact statement,” said Paul Friedman, an environmental project manager for the federal agency.
An independent analysis, the environmental impact statement looks at geology and soils, water resources and wetlands, vegetation and wildlife, cultural resources, air quality and noise, public safety, and land use, recreation, and visual resources.
According to Friedman, the federal agency will hold additional public meetings after the environmental impact statement is drafted.
A five-member commission will have the final say on approving or denying a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the pipeline.
$3 BILLION PROJECT
Estimated to cost $3 billion, the 42-inch-in-diameter steel pipeline would pass through Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin, and Pittsylvania counties in Virginia.
The project includes 15 to 20 miles of pipeline in Pittsylvania County and will affect about 120 local landowners.
According to the commission, pipeline construction would disturb about 5,458 acres of land, not including temporary access roads.
Additional information on Thursday’s scoping meeting, including comments from the public, will be published in the Star-Tribune Wednesday, May 13.