To the Editor:
Since 2015, pipeline companies have been working on two pipelines, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, both of which are proposed to transport fracked gas from West Virginia, through Virginia to the coast. A third pipeline, the Southgate pipeline, a 72-mile extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, has now been proposed to transport 300 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from the compressor station near Chatham into North Carolina.
While some people are fine with allowing millions of cubic feet of dangerous natural gas to be pumped through their land and near their homes, and in return, accept money for an easement that will diminish their property values and forever put them at the mercy of multi-million dollar energy companies including Dominion and Duke Energy—many of the landowners along the pipeline routes are not fine with it. Unfortunately, for those who are not fine with it, it barely matters. Thousands of acres of farmland, pastures, rivers and streams that have been cared for by the same families for generations will be heavily damaged for no public benefit. The pipelines will also put the health and safety of landowners and their families at risk. Since 2010, there have been 137 fires and explosions along interstate pipelines.
As we have seen, once a pipeline has crossed your property, the door is opened for additional pipelines. The same goes for compressor stations. Pittsylvania County is ground zero for compressor stations. While many people think the existing Williams compressor station near Chatham has not done any harm, please take time to talk to some of the people who live in its vicinity. With the proposed Southgate pipeline, Pittsylvania County is now slated for a second compressor station— a second enormous industrial facility that runs continuously and has huge impacts on air quality.
Contrary to popular belief, the pipeline companies have not proven that these pipelines will provide public benefits. New analysis shows that demand for gas-fired electricity is not growing in our region and is not expect to grow significantly for the foreseeable future. The lack of need has been supported by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, who submitted a letter in November to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), stating it questioned whether the Southgate pipeline met the commission’s criteria to “deem it in the public interest,” or essential to state’s growth. Even two FERC commissioners stated in August this year that neither the MVP nor the ACP is in the public interest. See FERC website: https://www.ferc.gov/media/statements-speeches/lafleur/2018/08-10-18-lafleur-ACP.asp#.XAmFmdtKjX4
The real reason for the pipelines is to allow energy companies to make major profits by exporting natural gas overseas. The development of fracking technology has produced a surplus of natural gas, so the industry is seeking new customers abroad, making exporting the new face of the natural gas industry. In 2017, total annual natural gas exports were the highest on record in the U.S. But, the gas has to be transported to the coast, hence pipelines.
Locally, there has been talk of tax revenue going to Pittsylvania County from the Mountain Valley Pipeline. MVP’s website states, “The MVP project could generate up to $1.2 million in annual county ad valorem taxes (property taxes) once in service.” I, for one, would like to know if it has been verified that Pittsylvania County will receive 1.2 million in property taxes from MVP. Also, property owners will continue to pay real estate taxes on land the pipeline crosses, and with the likelihood of property values decreasing due to the pipeline, will the possible 1.2 million offset the loss of county real estate taxes?
There has also been unverified discussion about a tap at the Berry Hill Mega Park to help lure new industries. Does the pipeline have the ability to install taps along the route other than at compressor stations? Perhaps this indicates a third compressor station is being considered at the Mega Park. A third huge, dangerous industrial facility that runs continuously and has many negative impacts on air quality, noise pollution, water pollution, fires and explosions — for Pittsylvania County.
The governmental regulations and agencies at every level (local, state and federal) that are charged with protecting natural resources from utility projects, are absurd. FERC, the body that issues federal pipeline permits (which is, by the way, composed up of former energy officials), sticks to the status quo by hiring consultants to study wetlands and historic sites, and then permitting whatever the pipeline company wants. They also fail to adequately examine different options of combining pipelines to reduce environmental impacts and burdens to landowners. The coup de’ grace being, if landowners continue to resist pipelines, the federal government will allow the energy company to take their land through eminent domain.
Earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Because MVP’s certificate from FERC specifies that all necessary permits must be in place before the project can proceed anywhere, MVP is required to halt work on waterways along its entire route. But, MVP is completely ignoring the court order and has contractors working now on stream and creek crossings along the pipeline path. Since April, MVP has been cited six times by environmental regulators in West Virginia and Virginia for water quality and erosion violations; despite this, pipeline construction continues.
Pittsylvania County government has bent over backwards for the MVP, even allowing them to not have to apply for and obtain special use permits. While all citizens of the county have to acquire appropriate permits in order to make changes contrary to the zoning of their property; a private, for-profit company has been given free rein in Pittsylvania County.
Not all counties have been so docile. I ask readers to look no farther than nearby counties, including Franklin County, Virginia and Alamance County, North Carolina. Franklin County officials recognized early the environmental and social issues the MVP would bring. In September, the Alamance County Commissioners voted unanimously on a resolution opposing the Southgate pipeline.
Some of Pittsylvania County’s greatest assets are the rural, natural resources and clean environment. As other parts of Virginia and North Carolina are developed, this region becomes more and more of an oasis. Natural gas pipelines are dangerous, interstate-sized construction corridors that risk our health and safety; decrease property values; take away private property rights; destroy private forests and farmland; damage streams, rivers and wetlands and pollute the air. Private landowners should not have to shoulder these risks so private companies can make millions by selling gas overseas.
For anyone in the path of the MVP or Southgate Pipeline, please know you do not have to allow surveyors on your property and there is time to keep eminent domain from taking your land. For more information please contact the Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, Sierra Club, Preserve Franklin, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s websites. For maps that show the paths of pipelines in Virginia and other states see www.Fractracker.org.