Group warns commission about pipeline dangers

Since Dominion Resources, Inc. announced a proposal to build a natural gas pipeline across northern Pocahontas County and central Highland County, environmental groups have begun to inform the public of the  plan.

At Tuesday morning’s Pocahontas County Commission meeting, Lauren Ragland of the West Virginia Wilderness Lovers (WVWL) described several negative impacts of pipeline construction, including blasting and cutting to build the pipeline, noise from compressor stations, truck traffic and the potential for catastrophic water pollution.

WV pipeline mapA map from Dominion shows the proposed pipeline crossing National Forest lands and several northern Pocahontas County rivers and streams, including Shavers Fork, and the West and East Forks of the Greenbrier River.

Ragland quoted Rick Webb, a retired University of Virginia senior scientist.

“This project cannot happen without long-term damage to the ecological and hydraulic integrity of the Allegheny Highlands – among the best and least altered landscapes on the East Coast of America,” she read.

Ragland said the proposed gas pipeline would be 42-inches in diameter, which has had never been done before in these conditions.

“There are some, but they’ve never gone over mountain ranges,” she said. “They would be blasting and drilling through Cheat Mountain and Shenandoah Mountain to get over to North Carolina.”

According to Ragland, noisy compressor stations, covering acres, are typically located every 40-100 miles along the pipeline.

“These compressor stations run 24 hours a day, every day of the year, forever,” she said. “The size of the station and number of compressors vary based on the diameter of the pipe and the volume of gas to be moved. Dominion has stated these would be every 10-40 miles because of the volume and because of the elevation.”

To further educate the public, Ragland said WVWL will give presentations at all Pocahontas County libraries this month, as well as a presentation to the Randolph County Commission on July 17.

Ed Wade, Jr., of Wetzel County, WV, followed Ragland with a second presentation on pipeline issues.

“I live one mile from a compressor station that houses 11 compressors,” he said. “At nighttime, windows and doors shut, TV on, I can hear it completely – a mile away,” he said. “These are 24/7, running all the time production. People who come here for tourism, they’re not going to like that.”

Wade said Pocahontas County reminds him of the way Wetzel County used to be, before it was affected by the natural gas industry.

“You all have what I used to have – the quietness, good roads, clean water. It just amazes me the water here. No matter how deep it is, you can see the bottom. Back home, all that’s been jeopardized from this type of gas development.”

Pipeline construction in Wetzel County. Photo by Ed Wade, Jr.

Pipeline construction in Wetzel County. Photo by Ed Wade, Jr.

Wade displayed several photographs of catastrophic damage from pipeline malfunctions in other areas, showing how blasting for pipelines had seriously degraded streams and wildlife in other areas.

“You’re subject to lose a lot of tourism money,” he said. “You’ll gain a little bit of money when this comes through, but if you push your tourism out of this county, you guys have nothing.”

Greenbrier River Watershed coordinator Leslee McCarty asked the commission what it could do if it decided to oppose the pipeline.

Commissioner David Fleming’s understanding is that a county commission has the authority to pass ordinances for public safety issues. “That’s probably an option before us if we decided to do that,” he said. “It would no doubt be challenged in court, but it is within the jurisdiction of the County Commission to oppose it in very real ways.”

Cutting off further discussion, the commission insisted on following the 30 minutes scheduled on the commission agenda for the pipeline issue. Flemming assured audience members there would be more meetings and opportunities to speak on the subject of the possible natural gas pipeline.

There will also be a Public Meeting on Saturday, July 19 at 1pm at the Pocahontas Wellness Center. Several Dominion Power Communication Representatives have been contacted and invited to speak at the July 19 meeting.

Thanks to Geoff Hammil and the Pocahontas Times for the information in this story.

Story By

Megan Moriarty

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