Pocahontas County Commission Receives Update on Status of Atlantic Coast Pipeline


Denise Campbell, the Community Liaison for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), along with Bob Orndorff and Jason Harshbarger from Dominion Energy, came to the October 1st County Commission meeting, and briefed the commissioners on the current status of the pipeline construction.

Orndorff announced that he will be retiring as Dominion’s State Policy Director and introduced Jason Harshbarger as his replacement. Harshbarger delivered the update.

Harshbarger confirmed that the project is currently on hold due to legal challenges.  He explained that construction was halted by the 4th U.S. circuit Court for two reasons, the Rusty Patch Bumble Bee and the Appalachian Trail.

Harshbarger explained that because the path of the pipeline crossed the range of that endangered bumble bee, the APC did studies that determined that the bee would not be harmed by the construction which enabled them to obtain a “take permit.” He said that the 4th Circuit Court, however ruled that those studies done by the utility were not sufficient.  Harshbarger said that the ACP is currently doing additional studies that they hope will satisfy the court.

Regarding the Appalachian Trail: While there are already 62 pipelines crossing under it, the Court ruled that even though the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service have been granted authority to regulate and permit almost all utilities that cross the trail, pipelines are not among those listed utilities, so the permits received by the ACP to cross the trail are invalid.

Harshbarger and Orndorff said that the court’s rulings are currently being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they hopefully expect a favorable decision next spring to allow construction to resume.

All three pipeline representatives at the meeting said that they are confident that the pipeline will be built.

(Editor’s note: In an update to this story after it was filed, on Friday October 4th, the Supreme Court agreed to review the lower court’s ruling on this case.)

Also at this meeting, Vivian Parsons and Steve Rawlings of the West Virginia Counties Risk Pool (WVCRP) addressed the commissioners concerns from an earlier meeting that the county did not have cyber risk insurance coverage. Parsons explained that the WVCRP is a self-insurance organization owned by the fifty WV counties that participate in it. She asked Rawlings to explain about cyber risk coverage since that is his area of expertise.

Rawlings said that Pocahontas County is covered by their basic cyber risk policy at no extra charge. That policy, he explained is limited to payouts up to Two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000.00)per occurrence with an aggregate limit of one million dollars for the entire state. He said that means that if the county were to suffer a large financial loss due to a cyber attack late in the year, after other counties had used up that aggregate one million dollars, there would be no money left for any other claims in the state, meaning that Pocahontas County’s claim would not be paid.

Rawlings said there is an optional coverage available that the county could buy which would remedy that limitation of the basic plan. The optional plan would allow the county to receive claims up to Two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000.00) per occurrence -up to a total yearly claim payout of one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) which is not limited by other claims by other counties in the state. They explained that the cost for this additional cyber attack coverage is $3000.00 annually.

Rawlings explained that covered cyber attacks include, among many other types of attacks;

  • Ransom ware attacks in which an organization’s data can be encrypted and the victim has to pay large amounts of money to obtain a key to unencrypt their data. Harrison County recently was victimized by such a ransom ware attack.
  • Phising cyber attacks –an example of which, according to Rawlings, was an incident in another county where the Human Resources Department received an email from an employee asking them to change the bank account their paychecks were being automatically deposited into, which they did. Only latter to find out that the employee did not send the email requesting the change of banking accounts, and never received their pay.

He said that WVCRP also provides training to help avoid cyber attacks and in the event the county is attacked, provides a Cyber Breach Coach to assist the county in dealing with the cyber attack.

The commissioners decided to put off a decision until they consider whether they should add the optional cyber risk coverage.

In other actions at the meeting, the commissioners:

  • Authorized Mike O’Brien, in his capacity as Emergency Management Director to apply for a $35,000 grant to purchase a pick-up truck to tow the Emergency Management’s trailers and to apply for a $25,000 grant to purchase radio equipment for Shavers Fork Fire and Rescue. Both of these grants have already been pre-approved and only waited for commission approval.
  • Authorized mike O’Brien, in his capacity as 911 Director, to sell used 911 equipmenr by on-line auction.
  • Received the annual update of the Pocahontas County Senior Citizen Program from John Simmons. Simmons said that they have twenty-nine employees, nine of whom are full-time and twenty of whom are part time (32 hours per week) employees. He said they operate two Meals on Wheels vehicles, one in Marlinton and one in Green Bank, which, combined, travel 178 miles per day and delivered eight thousand, seven hundred and twenty (8,720) meals last year. He also said they served nine thousand and sixty five meals at their three Senior Centers last year. Simmons said they made 476 medical transports, operated their Home Makers Program and made shopping runs for seniors.
  • Approved the 2018-2019 county financial statement, which they will send to have printed in the Pocahontas Times.
  • Approved sponsoring the Trunk or Treat Event to be held in the Former Shoe Factory parking lot from 5 pm to 7 pm on Halloween.
  • Authorized the creation of a non-interest bearing checking account to handle the funds for the Broadband Study Grant
  • Appointed Tim McClung to the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees for a six year term.

In his Counsel’s Report, Bob Martin said that the judge in the opioids lawsuit has created settlement classes and the Commission has until November 22nd to opt in or out of those classes. Martin also said the Ethics Commission defined a “reasonable time” to publish meeting minutes as being one business day following the next meeting.

As usual, the Commissioners approved invoices prior to adjourning the meeting.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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