Highland Officials and Organization Submit Pipeline Filings to F.E.R.C.

The scoping period for commentary on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project ended April 28th, and county and Monterey officials and organizations provided input to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before the deadline.

The Highland County Board of Supervisors has adopted a policy of neutrality throughout the pipeline discussions, stating that the members were wanting to find out as much information as possible before making any official comment. This culminated with the submission of 22 page document to F.E.R.C., written by county attorney Melissa Dowd at the Board’s direction, and signed by all three supervisors. While the filing did not express official opposition to the ACP, it’s intent was to make F.E.R.C. aware of a number of issues, many unique to Highland, that a project of this magnitude could potentially cause. It also urged that the burden of responsibility for proper research before construction and mitigation should issues arise be placed firmly on Dominion’s shoulders.

The filing, along with Board chair David Blanchard’s accompanying introductory letter, underscored the county’s rural nature, and reliance agriculture for income, and that farmers should be adequately compensated should construction disturb production. For this same reason, Dominion should be restricted to having no more than 500 feet of trench open at any given time.

Care also needs to be taken to protect the tourism and second homeowners the area attracts, and the Board felt Dominion should pay for all roadwork repairs caused by the construction, as well as coordinate efforts not to disturb activities such as the Maple Festival.

It noted that county resources were scant, both from a construction oversight and emergency response capability, and recommended that the company provide it’s own first responder vehicles and crews, as well as work with the county to upgrade communication infrastructure. It also recommended that the company be responsible for developing it’s own site to house temporary workers.

The  potential damaging effects to natural resources and water supplies was also a key issue. The Board urged Dominion be required to hire expert consultants to study and mitigate problems which could arise from erosion, construction on steep slopes and through karst topography. It also expressed concern that the aquifers which supply water to Monterey and McDowell, as well as private springs, could be negatively affected. The filing suggested the company divert the route further away from the towns to protect the water sources, and be ordered to identify private springs and wells and follow proper setback procedures.

Monterey Mayor Rich Holman has long been sounding the alarm on potential town water issues, and he submitted a letter to F.E.R.C., accompanied by a consultant’s report raising the possibility of harmful impact by construction. The Town Council had agreed to retain the services of karst hydrologist William Jones to provide input for comment, and he provided an 11 page document which outlined the dangers to the town supply. Mayor Holman’s letter reference the numerous times he had requested input from Dominion, and their official response was the company would do only what it was bound by F.E.R.C. to do. Mayor Holman urged the agency to put strict requirements on Dominion and ACP to test the dangers, have a plan in place to supply water if issues arise, and be responsible for all costs affecting the community.

Highlanders For Responsible Development also submitted commentary before the scoping period ended. HRD’s comments mirrored many of the issues raised by the other submissions. It also urged that F.E.R.C. closely examine the economic justification for the pipeline, including identifying the future needs of the areas it purports to service, the existing infrastructure, and the likely life of the Marcellus Shale Field production.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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