More than two months after the natural gas pipeline project proposed by Dominion Resources first became public knowledge, meetings are taking place in both Pocahontas and Highland Counties.
On Tuesday, August 5th, a Dominion Representative will speak at the Highland County Board of Supervisors’ monthly meeting.
Citizen groups have also organized public meetings for this month. The WV Wilderness Lovers and Wetzel County Action Group will be at the Durbin Fire Hall on Thursday, August 7th starting at 6pm. The Highlanders for Responsible Development (HRD) will be at the Highland Center on Tuesday, August 19th at 7pm.
HRD President Lewis Freeman said that since the pipeline project was first announced, many questions have been raised about the potential impact.
“We have become aware of a great deal of concern throughout the proposed route of the pipeline; citizens groups and others asking questions about what the impact will be,” Freeman said. “As a result, we have decided to have a public meeting that would give an opportunity for the public to hear from some experts on such subjects as the possible environmental/ecological impacts of the pipeline, the process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other government agencies that would be involved, and to explore the economic benefits as well as, perhaps, downsides of the pipeline, should it indeed be built through Highland County.”
While a Dominion Resources spokesperson will address the Highland County Board of Supervisors on the 5th, local citizens will not have an opportunity to ask questions.
The public meeting at the Durbin Fire Hall on the 7th will focus on the health dangers and public safety hazards involved with pipeline construction and operation. According to group organizer Lauren Ragland, there will be images of Compressor Stations, Liquid Separators and Valve Meter Stations, all of which would be along the route through the Monongahela National Forest, parallel to the meeting location off of Route 250.
“I will be giving a speech on the details of what a pipeline is, and also the process that we’re in,” Ragland said. “Ed Wade will be speaking on the ramifications of pipeline construction and operation that he has been dealing with in Wetzel County for many years now.”
According to Ragland, other counties along the pipeline are having success with their organizing efforts. “Rappahannock County, VA just put out a resolution to ban this activity in their county,” she said. “Nelson County made a suggestion that Dominion actually show up and speak to them. It worked. Now Dominion is coming. So, my goal is to educate the public on what they can ask their public officials to do immediately.”
Both Freeman and Ragland have invited representatives from Dominion to attend their public meetings this month, but they have yet to receive a response.
While specialists and public officials have been invited to speak, the primary goal of both public meetings is to give community members a chance to ask questions and express their own opinions.
“Our current mission is to make sure that development that occurs is as compatible as possible with the natural resources of this county, which are our greatest asset,” Freeman said. “Clean water, clean air, incredible views.”
“The pipeline would be the largest infrastructure project ever built in this county,” Freeman said. “It would dig up over 20 miles of land. There is the potential for disruption of water, as well as wildlife and habitats. And so we have lots of questions, and we are hopeful that Dominion will begin addressing those questions.”