March 2nd Meeting at Linwood -Pocahontas Anti-Pipeline Coalitions Organizing
On a cold March 2nd night, the Linwood Library came alive with over 100 citizens upset with the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. A number of them opposed the building of a pipeline anywhere in the County. Some of those are concerned with any project that supports the continued use of fossil fuels, while others are more concerned with the damage they perceive the pipeline doing to tourism, the natural beauty of this pristine county, its water and to the unique way of life in these parts. For some others they are primarily worried about keeping the pipeline away from their homes, farms and communities, but could live with it in someone else’s backyard or in the National forest.
Presentations were made by representatives of three organizations, Lewis Freeman of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance founded in Highland County VA but eager to organize in Pocahontas County to oppose the pipeline; A Lewisburg Lawyer, Joe Lovett, of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a non-profit law and policy center fighting against the pipelines and for a clean environment and clean energy; and Rick Lambert, a Highland County based expert on caves and karst topography who also is the President of the Virginia Speleological Survey.
These same organizations made presentations in Bath County at a similar meeting on February 25th covering comparable topics. Allegheny Mountain Radio’s Amanda McGuire covered those topics very well in a story dated February 28 which can be found on the news tab of our website, www.alleghenymountainradio.org, so we will limit this story to a few of the issues pertaining particularly to the proposed route through Pocahontas County.
Local groups were also represented. Elise Keaton of the Greenbrier River Watershed Association was present and contributed to the discussions .Allen Johnson, a Pocahontas County Resident and member of the local eight-Rivers Council helped organize this meeting and delivered the introduction.
“I know we’re coming from probably people with different reasons and different concerns, but everybody is welcome. Thank you for coming” said Johnson. “I’m Allen Johnson; I’m President of 8 Rivers Council. We’re a Pocahontas County group which formed a number of years ago. A number of you have been involved with that just to protect our water, beautiful scenery, abundant nature and our greatest resource – our greatest resource is really community bonded people who really care about their community, about the eco systems, about nature, about a good economy and a vibrant future.”
Rick Lambert explained the reasons for the disconnection between local citizens opposed to the pipeline, Dominion and the Federal Energy Resources Commission (or FERC).
“The problem is there is a conflict of values between the people here in Pocahontas County and the people in Richmond who are making the decisions on where this pipeline should go” said Lambert. “Dominion and FERC don’t understand why there is such an uproar over this pipeline. They don’t understand why you won’t sacrifice your lifestyle so Dominion can make billions of dollars. They don’t understand your way of life.”
The speakers pointed out that this alternate route has been selected by Dominion to avoid the National Forest as much as possible, at the expense of private landowners. They pointed out that while Virginia makes it hard for landowners to keep Dominion’s surveyors off of their property, a recent court decision in Monroe County empowered landowners in this state to prohibit the surveyors from trespassing on their property without permission. The speakers recommended that West Virginia landowners to refuse such permission, and to use a lawyer and an assessor if they are in negotiations with Dominion over selling an easement through their property.
The audience had a number of questions and expressed their opinions. Ben Wilfong wondered why none of the County Commissioners were at this meeting. Concerns were brought up about the proposed route running through the heart of the Seneca State Forest, a proposed open trench crossing of the Greenbrier River, and the reduction of property values, among many other concerns. Others wondered what Snowshoe Mountain resort’s position on the pipeline was since the alternate route as proposed would run between the Snowshoe Inn and the Linwood Library and Day Care Center. Frank DeBerry, President of the Resort was present and said that he was here strictly to learn more about the pipeline issues. DeBerry expressed some of the concerns he did have about the proposed route.
“My concerns were certainly about coming right through the entrance here, that’s a big concern for us” said DeBerry. “There is no way that was going to happen. There is no way they are going up to Mace Knob into the dense spruce grove through Cheat Mountain Salamander habitat –that will never fly!”
He added that the Resort would only take a stand if it appears tourism will be negatively impacted or if there is a true community emergency such as pipeline caused polluted water.
Allegheny Mountain Radio will continue to follow this story and will be offering opinions in favor of building the pipeline as well as opposition to it in future stories.