Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance works to inform and prepare Bath residents

Last Thursday evening the Hot Springs firehouse was packed with a standing room only crowd. Residents of Bath, and visitors from Highland, Nelson, Augusta, Pocahontas, Greenbrier Counties and Roanoke met to learn more about and share experiences they have had with Dominion Transmission and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ABRA , the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance offered three speakers with extensive knowledge about the process ahead for Bath County after becoming part of the proposed route for the pipeline. This route, or GWNF6 became public on February 12th. There have been none of the scoping periods that were required on earlier proposed sections of the interstate route from West Virginia so residents were encouraged to act slowly, if at all, as far as allowing Dominion surveyors onto their land, and to act quickly to let FERC, or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission know how they feel.

Lewis Freeman of Highlanders for Responsible Development, and chair and executive director for ABRA gave an overview of the impact of the pipeline to this area. Rick Lambert, a caving expert, with the Virginia Speleological Survey, and the Virginia Cave Board explained several of the many environmental concerns related to local topography and hydrology. Several people wondered if a Dominion Survey crew came to their land, if it would be better to show them specific property features to avoid, than to cause a confrontation. Joe Lovett, Executive Director of Appalachian Advocates gave his opinion:

“This is a question a lot of people ask right, ‘Should we let them on to do the survey? Because just by doing the survey, it doesn’t give them the right to eminent domain?’ But what they’ll do is they’ll tell FERC, ’We did the survey, and the landowner cooperated, and the more of that FERC sees, the easier it is for FERC, and it makes the process goes more quickly. And I’ll have to say, this is anecdotal experience with people we represent, but that have let them on, and they come on and they say, look could you guys please not take this spring? Can you go around it, or this cemetery, or there’s something on my property, I really care about. And in no case has Dominion actually done anything to take note, or to care about that landowner’s request. Those guys, they go on, they have a purpose, they do their survey and they move on. You can tell FERC during the scoping process, and if you intervene what you want to tell FERC, just like Dominion can. So, I can’t tell you not to let them on, but if it were my property, all I can tell you is I would not let them on if I did not want that pipeline built because I would want FERC to understand that there is resistance.”

With this very early step, the laws in Virginia, are different from those in West Virginia. For those landowners who wondered what legal right they have to tell Dominion NOT to come on their land to survey, the attorneys present said the statute is clear. Issac Howell, Joe Lovett’s colleague from the Roanoke office of Appalachian Advocates,

“The Virginia constitution, not the Federal Constitution, but the Virginia Constitution says that you cannot take the property unless there is a public use. And out argument is that this is not a public use. There’s no government anywhere who said that this project is ok. And until they get a certificate, there’s no public use.”   So, the power to certify the pipeline as “a necessity and convenient” remains with FERC. And the power to let FERC know it is far from convenient remains with the residents along the route. How does a for-profit company like Dominion determine what is necessary for the public? Several recent studies show there may already be adequate infrastructure in place to meet needs for natural gas in the southeast.   For contact Information for the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance, Appalachian Advocates, and the Virginia Speleological Survey, look at this story on the AMR website.

CONTACT information for representatives of ABRA:

Lewis Freeman, Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance, Monterey:

Rick Lambert, Virginia Speleological Society:

Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Lewisburg:  304-645-9006

Rick Webb-  Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition,  Monterey,

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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