Pocahontas residents voice their concerns about county commission endorsement of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project
The Pocahontas County Commissioners held a special meeting on February 11, 2015 to consider two motions regarding the Commission’s position on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s approximately 12 mile passage through the County, as well as to hear public comment about the motions.
After all of the speakers had their say, the Commissioners made and passed a motion to send a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in support of the pipeline’s passage through Pocahontas County. The Commissioners then made and passed a motion to send a letter to the U.S. Forest Service and to the Monongahela National Forest in favor of a study of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Site Survey and Testing Project.
A number of the citizens present strongly opposed the pipeline. One speaker, Tom Epling, opposes the pipeline on the grounds that it will destroy the natural beauty of Pocahontas County.
“I’ve camped in Pocahontas County on Deep Creek and Watoga for many years and enjoyed bicycling on the Greenbrier River Trail,” said Mr. Epling. “Because of the unique beauty this county has to offer I moved to Pocahontas County and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on property here. We pay property taxes in Pocahontas County; we’ve spent lots of money here.”
Mr. Epling went on to dispute a statement he attributed to Commissioner Jamie Walker at an earlier Commission Meeting about the pipeline. Mr. Epling stated that Mr. Walker had said something to the effect that the trees in Pocahontas County had never put any money in his pocket.
“Any suggestion that the trees in Pocahontas County do not put money in people’s pockets is very short sighted, I am afraid,” said Epling. “I think our resources do return money to this county and the people who enjoy them bring it in. I think you need to look at that carefully before you go destroying those resources.”
Others opposed to the pipeline stated that the pipeline just encourages hydraulic fracking of gas wells which will destroy our water, which is especially dangerous for Pocahontas County since we are the birthplace of 8 rivers. Elizabeth Dobbins of the Snowshoe area opposes it as it will destroy the karst ecology of the area. Alice Arbuckle of Hillsboro opposes the pipeline because of her concerns about the National Forest.
“I’m concerned that a private entity such as Dominion will set a precedent for other companies wanting to also run a pipeline through the National Forest,” said Arbuckle. “It’s the precedent that I am worried about and the gentleman [Epling] made a point, the National Forest was set aside to be a forest and a pipeline just doesn’t belong.”
Arbuckle goes on to explain that maybe another route entirely might be appropriate.
“I really wish that they could find another route that avoids the National forest, not only in Mon (Monongahela National forest) but next door in Virginia,” said Arbuckle. “It would be nice if you guys could just go due south to the Charleston area, have a way to sell the product in West Virginia and then go due east perhaps through all the devastated areas that were strip mined, instead of taking a risk through the pristine National forest.”
Others who opposed the pipeline expressed concerns about a possible alternate route which would bring the pipeline south along the side of Route U.S. 219 right through Marlinton; however the Dominion representatives present advised that all structures and towns will be avoided.
Other concerns were that Dominion subcontractors would be the ones doing the survey and the study in the National Forest.
This pipeline has been a very controversial issue for our community, however I for one am very glad to see that citizens from both sides of the issue came together at the Commission meeting and treated each other with respect.