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SW Virginia communities await call on pipeline
By JANE W. GRAHAM
NEWPORT, Va. (Jan. 3, 2017) — Opponents of the current plan for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline gained some hope the project could see change after the Environmental Protection Agency issued statements last month that affirm many of their concerns.
The pipeline project, known as MVP, is a natural gas pipeline system that spans about 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia — and as an interstate pipeline will be regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
If approved, the pipeline will be governed by the United States Natural Gas Act, which requires a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity from the FERC before construction can commence.
As currently planned, the pipeline will be up to 42 inches in diameter and will require about 50 feet of permanent easement with up to 125 feet of temporary easement during construction.
Touting enormous economic benefits to the states and improved energy infrastructure, MVP has garnered support from both states’ governors.
In Virginia, the pipeline is estimated to have direct spending of $407 million and contribute to 4,400 jobs by its peak in construction in 2018.
But the pipeline has seen strong opposition from local landowners, questioning the proposted route the project would take.
Dr. Doug Martin, a life-long resident of this community and retired Virginia Tech administrator, filed more than 20 pages of objections with FERC, citing historical, agricultural, geological, economic, community, cultural and human reasons for opposing the pipeline.
“This presentation,” Martin wrote of his proposal to send to FERC, “will document that the proposed route will not only scar but will seriously alter if not destroy the Village of Newport as it is known now.”
Martin who is considered the community historian pointed to the information the residents were given at early meetings by the MVP personnel. He said residents were assured that the line would follow “the most benign route.” He does not believe the current proposals show plans that do this.
“We were advised early on that the Mountain Valley Pipeline would take the most benign route,” Martin wrote. “From a practical perspective, how can a private natural gas pipeline propose a route through the middle of a community that negatively impacts historical designations, has safety concerns, alters and scars the natural terrain permanently and advises long-term land owners that they may have to move? The proposed route with its ‘minor variations’ is still through the heart of the historic Newport and our message is that the Village of Newport should be off limits. Based on the information provided, the errors and omissions in the various reports and from the inside looking out, the proposed pipeline route is a malignant one, not a benign one.”
Just before the Dec. 22 deadline to submit comments to FERC on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, EPA filed its comments challenging the proposed $3.5 billion pipeline that would cross 11 West Virginia counties and five Virginia counties. The Virginia counties are Giles, Craig, Roanoke, Montgomery and Franklin. Only Franklin has expressed interest in having the pipeline come to it, according to local news reports.
“EPA has concerns regarding the purpose and need, alternatives analysis and a number of important topics for which information is incomplete,” the agency wrote to Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., FERC deputy secretary. “EPA concerns focus on the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the proposed action on the environment and public health, including impacts to terrestrial resources such as interior forests, aquatic resources, geology and geohazards, and rate, threatened and endangered species.”
The possible effects on agriculture in the rural community were among many reasons Martin outlines for opposing the MVP.
“There is a rural ambiance in the Village of Newport that combines a natural beauty intertwined with old homes and new families to create a positives sense of community,” he wrote. “The Village of Newport has one of the oldest Agricultural Fairs in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
With family roots in the community going back seven generations Martin has an understanding of what a large underground pipeline might do for the farming community here.
“Old farms and farming equipment and the current farms meld old and new to offer a unique history that is in need of preservation,” he stated. “These are functional farms that need the options to change as needed. The proposed pipeline route will be through and bisect a number of farms that have not been divided for many years and a segmented farm reduces options.
“Farms, farming and farm life is growing; however, the external economic focus restricts farming opportunities.”
Martin expressed concern about natural water supplies and the legalities of spring and water rights.
“What happens to the mountain springs that have provided sustenance to families and animals over the years?’ he asked.
“What about the farms that are being split?” he continued. “Are they still functional or can they even be developed? For a while one of the farms that is now threatened by the pipeline was an ostrich farm.
“Farmers rotate crops, change livestock options and make other adjustments consistent with the current market. Nearby in Hoges Chapel the proposed pipeline comes through the Doe Creek Farm, which is well known for its apple produce. The intrusion of a large pipeline goes beyond the ascetic destruction to affecting the type of farms that may be viable in the future.”
Once the meetings are completed and comments are addressed, the FERC will review and issue a Final Environmental Impact Statement, estimated to arrive on March 10, 2017. After review of the FEIS, the FERC will make a decision on whether to approve the MVP project.
Subject to regulatory approvals, the targeted in-service date for the MVP is during the fourth quarter 2018.