Tuesday, June 14, 2016

County in Appalachian Virginia leading charge against proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Residents in rural Nelson County, Virginia, many of them farmers, have been leading the fight against Dominion Energy’s proposed 560-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would carry natural gas from Harrison County, West Virginia, to Robeson County, North Carolina, Brad Horn reports for The Washington Post. Of the 245 lawsuits Dominion has filed, or planned to file, to get survey access, half were in Nelson County. While 85 percent of landowners along the route have allowed surveys, that number drops to less than 40 percent in Nelson County.

"The pipeline’s champions say it will significantly reduce carbon emissions while creating jobs along its route. Detractors say the $5 billion project will lead to more methane emissions, violate private property rights and disrupt fragile ecosystems when it passes through some of the more intact wilderness of the southern Appalachians," Horn writes. "What isn’t argued is whether the U.S. needs a replacement for coal. Coal-fired power plants generate 33 percent of the nation’s electricity but 71 percent of our carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This gives coal the distinction of being the nation’s single largest contributor to climate change." (Post graphic; click on it for a larger version)
Landowners "were told the pipeline required a permanent clearing, a 75-foot-wide 'right of way' on which nothing but small plants could grow," Horn writes. "According to Dominion’s literature, the right of way could still be used for most agricultural endeavors such as planting crops and grazing livestock, but landowners couldn’t grow trees or build houses on the land, and new road constuction would be limited... If the pipeline was approved, which was expected, Dominion could seize rights of way with eminent domain. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency responsible for approving interstate pipeline applications, could also reject the proposal, but even anti-pipeline activists considered this unlikely."

Heidi Cochran, a Nelson County landowner since 1977 who has fought the pipeline, said she knew "that if they succeeded in pushing the pipeline out of Nelson County, it would only mean it would be built in a different county and routed through different back yards," Horn writes. She told him, “It bothers me that I only cared about this when it was in my back yard, that I never got involved when it was happening to someone else,. It may be a done deal with me, but that’s who I’m doing this for now: for the next person who’s going to have a pipeline built in their back yard.” (Read more)

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