Just a few hours after Dominion Resources announced its joint venture with Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and AGL Resources on Tuesday morning, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe publicly supported the Atlantic Coast Project. In his speech, McAuliffe presented information from independent firm Chmura Economics and Analytics, calling the 550-mile natural gas pipeline a “game changer” for Virginia’s economy.
“As this project gets underway,” McAuliffe said, “the construction phase alone will generate $1.4 billion in economic activity in Virginia, and create 8,800 new jobs for the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
According to Virginia Public Radio’s Sandy Hausman, Governor McAuliffe received $150,000 in campaign contributions from Dominion during the last election cycle.
The governor believes the $4.5-5 billion project could make Virginia “the Mid-Atlantic manufacturing hub,” but small communities along the proposed route are wondering how the pipeline will impact the homes, farms, small businesses, and scenic areas along the pipeline.
Ernie Reed is the Vice Chair of Friends of Nelson, a citizen-run, community-based, membership organization dedicated to the protection of property rights, property values, rural heritage and the environment for the citizens of Nelson County, Virginia. The organization has also been working with groups, agencies, and businesses in Augusta and Highland Counties in Virginia, as well as Pocahontas County in West Virginia.
“It was clear that the governor has been working on this for some time” Reed said, “and it was also clear that the company that put together the environmental and economic analysis for this did not at all consider the cost on communities like Nelson County, like Augusta County, like Highland County, like Pocahontas County, in any of their analysis at all, nor was anybody in those counties contacted about this.”
In a press release, Friends of Nelson pointed out that the pipeline would travel through small rural counties, whose tourism and agriculture-based economies depend on forested landscapes, quality drinking water, farmlands, and mountain vistas.
“In Nelson County, virtually the entire economy is based on tourism and related amenities,” Reed said. “Things like our breweries, our wineries, The Appalachian Trail and The National Forest.”
“A two year construction schedule for a pipeline that includes blasting and a 125-foot easement route across all the main arteries into our county is certainly going to impact the businesses and the economy during the construction phase,” Reed said. “And then in the long term, having a big easement stripe coming down across the top of the Blue Ridge from the Parkway down through the middle of the valley is not most people’s idea of a pristine and beautiful environment.”
In his speech Tuesday morning, Governor McAuliffe spoke about a “new Virginia economy,” one where “heavy manufacturing” is recruited to the state. He sees this pipeline as a way to make the state “competitive.”
“97 new chemical projects have been announced to be built between now and 2020, over the next six years,” McAuliffe said. “$72 billion of new investment has been announced 1.2 million new jobs are being created, most of those during construction, but 537,000 of those jobs would be permanent in this new space for us. And it will create $34 billion of federal, state, and local taxes.”
But organizations like Friends of Nelson believe that the state won’t see many of the benefits McAuliffe referred to.
“Most of those jobs go to specialists who are skilled in pipeline development,” Reed explained, “so those are jobbers that come from other parts of the country. From Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, for instance, to do those jobs.”
“In the long term, this pipeline is a trans-state pipeline,” Reed said. “The vast majority of this gas is being transported either to North Carolina or for export. Of course, those aren’t going to translate into any economic benefits in Virginia. There are not going to be virtually any residential customers that are going to benefit from any of this. In fact, the purchasers of this energy have to be so significant that it’s unclear what size new industry is going to have to either be established or convert to be able to utilize any of this. And those are unknowns that really aren’t acknowledged in the economic analysis that the governor presented.”
To voice your opinion about this decision, call the Governor’s office at 804-786-2211.