Unwise Pipeline Needs People Power

 

I tire of corporate smoke and mirrors, lies and greed.  They say natural gas pipelines are safe.  If they are so safe why were there seventy “significant” natural gas pipeline incidents in 2013?

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Table from the Unites States Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. In 2013 there were 70 “significant” incidents. They define “significant” when an incident causes a fatality or $50,000 in damages. Click on the image to go to their website.

Pipeline Explosion!

And don’t forget about the San Bruno explosion that killed eight people, wiped out a neighborhood and three dozen homes in 2010.

San Bruno, CA 30" natural gas pipeline explosion 2010

San Bruno, CA 30″ natural gas pipeline explosion 2010.

 

The biggest safety/environmental issue facing us here in the Shenandoah Valley, right now, is the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Most of the local people oppose it and several organizations were born out of the struggle to fight it: Augusta County Alliance, Friends of Nelson County.   Many other existing organizations support the fight such as the Shenandoah Valley Network and the Southern Environmental Law Center.  Many organizations have joined the aforementioned in support of the fight, including the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance and mine.

There is a petition to tell our Governor to reverse his support of the pipeline because of the numerous negative impacts outlined in the petition statement.  If you agree, click on the link, sign the petition and share it on your social media outlets.

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Background:

Dominion Resources, Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas plan to construct a 550-mile long and 42-inch diameter pipeline from Harrison County, West Virginia to the Atlantic Ocean in North Carolina.  If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves the pipeline Dominion will have the power of eminent domain to do this.  They already have the authority  to have surveyors enter private property without landowner consent.  These are granted under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Virginia’s Wagner Act of 2004.

Natural gas pipeline construction in Nebraska.

42″ Natural gas pipeline construction in Nebraska.

This will be a $5 billion project that will go through the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests, through the active geologic formation known as “Karst” in the valley of Virginia then through the Blue Ridge Parkway and to the Atlantic Ocean.  There will be a spur to Chesapeake, Virginia with the main line deep into North Carolina.

Wanting to know more I visited the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s website.  It appears that there is going to be a natural gas pipeline near everyone soon!  It seems we are trading one evil (coal) for another (fracked gas).  Why can’t we invest more in renewable energy instead of relying on non-renewable fossil fuels?

Arrogant Attitude:

What bothers me most is the general attitude of the Dominion Resources people that spoke to us at various meetings.  They are going to ram this pipeline down our unwilling throats and take our property rights through eminent domain.  If there were some extrinsic values to the project like some of the profits going to “Habitat for Humanity”, Hospice or Storm Water improvements I would have a listening ear, but as far as I can tell it’s all going into the corporation’s coffers.  It’s Robin Hood in reverse – the rich take from the poor to give to themselves.

Today’s corporations have far more power than people.  They have the money and the law on their side.  It’s time to shift this power back to the people.  We need to overturn “Citizens United” and we need to reform the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

I wrote an OPED piece for the Bay Journal News Service about this.  I sent a draft to the editor and he replied, “So, tell me Mr. Whitescarver, how do you feel about this pipeline? 😉  We’ll need to cut at least 50 words. And I’d like you to look at the tone here and there. I like the outrage – no worries. But where you verge on calling them bandits, cheats, and liars see if there’s another way of making the point”.

Here’s the final copy.

 

Comments

  1. I was an underground contractor for years and, quite simply, pipelines in rural areas are safe. Natural gas will not explode in the atmosphere.

    In urban areas where older natural gas pipes are cast iron and uncoated, the circumstances are very different. Most accidents are caused when the rusted out iron pipes bleed into sewer systems and sewer workers ignite the gas with cigarettes, torches etc.

    Gas lines now are far better engineered.

    If you Google “Pipelines in the USA”, you will be aware that you are probably on or near a pipeline. They run all throughout your homes.

    The sky ain’t falling folks.

    • Suzanne Keller says:

      May I suggest the larger issues at stake here. Dominion Power is rated one of the worst energy companies in its efficiency and investment in renewable resources. Why should the public allow the disturbance and clearcut of 8,333 acres of land when the company has not done everything it possibly can on the efficiency and renewable front? The construction of the pipeline with 125 right of way is virtually the same as putting in an eight lane highway across the landscape. Is Dominion’s market share and bottom line really in the public interest? Even if the gas in this pipeline does not end up going to India or China, it enables other pipelines to ship gas to Dominion’s Cove Point facility. Of course the consequences of the fracked boom are yet to be revealed, but we already have good science on its contribution to global warming through release of methane, its contribution to earthquakes, and its huge consumption of fresh water. Fracked gas is so 19th century.

  2. george Ohrstrom says:

    Bobby
    Nicely said. I think that part of the answer is to make sure that a portion of the cost of building this pipeline, say 1% is put into a fund to mitigate all impacts of this pipeline. Obviously there will be visual ones, but there will also be hidden impacts to economies of counties, natural resources, historic resources, and protected watersheds.
    At a 4.5 billion dollar price tag, one % is 45 million dollars. If a bipartisan stakeholder group could be set up to see the best places to spend that money to mitigate some of these impacts, it would at least help.
    Wonder what Dominion Resources would say to that?
    Thanks for posting …..George

  3. Lani Furbank says:

    Thanks for taking a stand on this and being the logical, factual voice of the people! It’s hard to watch corporations barrel through a region and destroy its natural resources and landscapes. I’m glad people in the Valley are coming together to form a strong opposition! An individual might not have the power to stop a corporation, but together, citizens (backed with knowledge) are a force to be reckoned with!

  4. I ams till trying wrap my feeble head around spending 4.5 billion bucks for a pipeline. Does that massive number give you an idea of how much money these guys stand to make when it is built?

  5. Rick Layser says:

    So Bobby,
    You are saying you do not want natural gas fired power plants instead of coal? How do you want them fueled?

    You want tanker trucks carrying natural gas on the highways instead of underground?

    What is the safety record of truck and rail transportation of natural gas compared to pipelines? Actually the record for gas pipelines sounds pretty good.

    Alternative energy? Do you want wind turbines on every ridge line and mountain in Augusta County; with a concrete pad, new roads and powerlines connecting each one and killing hundreds of threatened birds? How about acres and acres of solar panels on all the south facing land in Augusta County all connected with new roads and power lines? How about a nuclear power plant on the South River? A hydro-electric turbine dam in Goshen pass?

    A pipeline would help assure the rural nature of our county by having a right of way across the county where homes and buildings cannot be built while still allowing farming and recreation. Seems like a mandatory conservation easement with landowner reimbursement to me.

    The most endangered habitat on the George Washington National Forest is early successional habitat (meadows and opening), which over 225 threatened species need during their life cycle. The pipeline will make and maintain ideal early succssional habitat across the national forest without any cost to the taxpayers or conservation organizations. Taxpayer and conservation organizations are spending thousands of dollars an acre to create early successional habitat.

    It is easy to say no, but hard to propose real world solutions to our energy needs.

    Yours in Conservation,
    Rick Layser

    • Marynell Eyles says:

      Just one comment to Rick — Natural gas and fracked gas/oil cannot be moved in tanker trucks or trains. Not even an issue.
      Read about it — or ask one of the Dominion folks about that. Or, talk to the folks who have done a lot of study and research on the real issue who are right in our community.

      Alternative energy — yes, that’s what many of us prefer. I guess you like Dominions high voltage power poles better? With new roads, and our own narrow roads full of dump trucks racing through Middlebrook to dump another load so the big drills can get to the hillsides? Spend a day in the MBK store — it’s a wonder someone hasn’t already been killed right in the village.

      Doesn’t seem too wise to me. There ARE real world solutions — look at Germany and Ireland and so many other places that are easy to visit and do your own research. Some of us already have….I am proud that the Virginia Horse Center has plans to put solar panels on all the big barn roofs…but guess what….your government reps and Dominion have written specs that make alternative energy very difficult to engineer even when that’s what you want to do.
      But, I am truly a tree hugger (which is where your turkeys like to roost here on this farm)
      Marynell Eyles

  6. Joanna Salidis says:

    Mr. Layser,

    Your comment has a lot of false premises. The first is that the ACP will help meet local energy needs. Dominion claims that the gas will serve only 3 power plants in Virginia – one already has a new gas line going in (Brunswick), one has been in operation since 2011, so obviously has fuel (Bear Garden), and one is “planned at an undisclosed location”. Further, even if the ACP were going to help meet energy needs in Virginia, meeting those needs through renewables like solar and wind would help mitigate our on-coming climate (human) disaster, and have far fewer negative affects on both private and public property. Do you think that Germany, which met 30% of its energy needs in the first half of 2014 with renewables and gets a lot less sun than Virginia, has covered every square inch with solar panels and wind mills? Do you realize that utility customers in Va. are currently limited to providing a total of only 1% of a utility’s peak load from solar and other renewable? 1% is the cap!!! We have a very long way to go before every hillside is covered with solar panels.
    Finally, while there is good habitat POTENTIAL along utility corridors, current practices of close mowing and/or broad spraying of herbicides and/or neglect leading to invasives overtaking the corridor, prevent this potential from being realized. This very recent article (http://e360.yale.edu/feature/electric_power_rights_of_way_a_new_frontier_for_conservation/2816/) while talking about the potential in utility corridors, also makes it plain as day the extent to which meeting that potential IS A NEW FRONTIER. In other words, in makes sense to work towards this vision in existing ROWs – it does not make sense to assume that Dominion will use practices that are described as “a new frontier”.

    It is easy to continue business as usual, but hard to meet the challenges of a changing world without compromising human health and prosperity.

  7. Mike Tabony says:

    Well said, Bobby,

    I’d like to add that natural gas is just another of the fossil fuels and we need to immediately rid ourselves of our addiction to them. Some research is already showing that the switch from coal to natural gas from fracking is doing very little to reduce our overall production of greenhouse gases. A lot of the natural gas produced is being lost to the atmosphere and before it is oxidized in the atmosphere to carbon dioxide it is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2. This pipeline is just part of Dominion Resources business plan. The Cove Point, Maryland, natural gas export facility, just approved by FERC, is another 3 billion dollar project of Dominion Resources to facilitate the destruction of a livable climate for future generations. (Is it just a coincidence that a branch of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is going to Chesapeake?) With just these two projects Dominion is investing close to $10,000,000,000 in long term fossil fuel projects and climate destruction.

    Furthermore, I haven’t heard Dominion say anything about putting offshore wind turbines on the 112,800 acres of ocean bottom they are squatting on. The Federal Government put that ocean bottom for lease for offshore wind power but Dominion has ignored development to this point. I guess they still have planet poisons to sell.

    I truly believe that if a bunch of fierce looking Arabs were planning to destroy the livability of the planet we would readily label them “terrorists. How does Dominion Resources, with their present business plan, differ from those “terrorists”? It doesn’t. Therefore, can we label Dominion Resources a “Terrorist Corporation”? From the viewpoint of my grandchildren I hear a resounding “YES”.

  8. Mike Tabony says:

    The most important thing anyone reading this can do if they do not favor this pipeline is to sign up for “Green” electricity. All of the electric power producers that I am familiar with, including Dominion, have a “Green Option” that the consumer can choose. You pay a bit more for your power. On my last bill from Central VA Electric Cooperative (total $70.61) the Green Option cost me $3.98. For that meager amount I got to know that every electron I used during the month was replaced in CVEC’s grid with an electron produced by renewable energy.

    I can readily say not only do I NOT want this pipeline, I DON’T want the gas it is carrying. Leave it in the ground. When everyone affected by this pipeline is ready to say that, they will have a much better platform to stand on when they fight Dominion. It’s time to “Go Green”. Think of the grandchildren. Signing up only takes a phone call to your electricity supplier or a search for the option on their web site.

  9. Good stuff, Bobby. There is no way to view this project as anything other than a seizure of private property–in a state whose legislature supposedly holds property rights in high regard–and the relegation of enormous acreages of valuable farmland and irreplaceable natural resources to the status of sacrifice zones for corporate profit. The granting of a FERC permit for the pipeline would almost certainly give the US Forest Service the green light to open up the George Washington National Forest to fracking, thus industrializing one of the largest natural areas left in the East. We have to fight this thing hammer and tong.

  10. Carol Taylor says:

    Maybe it’s too late to comment here, but I want to point out that there are things people can do as well as sign up for green energy. We put in solar panels 4 years ago (and have paid not a cent for electricity since then) and had just completed installing a geo-thermal system this year when we learnt that the proposed pipe-line would go in the field right next to our house.

    Thank you Bobby for this blog and for all you do for us.

  11. David Meyr says:

    Bobby, this is a great forum; thanks!

    There are three ways to approach this pipeline:
    -We could protest, kick, scream, wave signs, put up billboards on our property, slap on bumper stickers, and ultimately stand in front of the bulldozers with daisies in our hands. While this may provide a way to feel good that, “At least we tried…”, unless we’re genuinely willing to lie down in front of the dozer’s tracks and trust in the driver’s humanity… it will probably be fruitless. And make enemies of those that genuinely feel that they need this fuel (and the promised jobs).
    -We could just ignore the problem and trust in the selfless, wise stewardship and leadership of our elected officials and senior Dominion personnel… which would probably be as stupid as it sounds.
    -Or we could do our best to work to manage this monster.

    I believe that there is a role for natural gas for the foreseeable future, as none of the renewable resources currently available to us (and I include all of solar, wind, wave and biofuels) can reasonably produce sufficient energy on a grand enough scale to meet our needs in our lifetime. But at the same time I’m doing what I can, powering my equipment barn with solar power, installing 100% LED lighting, etc./etc.

    So what to do? I like the proposals to take a percentage of the gross Dominion will pull in (not the profit; too easy for Dominion to manipulate away). This should be used for landowner compensation, first & second responder training and equipment, and purchase of “green”/set-aside acreage to preserve Augusta County acreage from development. (This should NOT go into Virginia’s general coffers; too tempting a prize for all our selfless and wise elected leaders). In addition, more of the gas needs to be available to Virginia along the way to the Coast (e.g. terminals in the Tri-city area and one in the Petersburg area).

    What has not been discussed yet is the greater, long-term danger than a poorly-managed pipeline; it’s the disguised taxation inherent in allowing a private company (Dominion) to act as an unregulated government agency to seize private property (e.g. allowing surveyors on private property without permission) through eminent domain.

    Seizure of private property through eminent domain is little more than an extension of taxation without representation. Didn’t we fight a revolution over this? This odious law (here’s an interesting examination of the law in a treatise from the Regent University Law Review, Vol. 26):
    http://www.regent.edu/acad/schlaw/student_life/studentorgs/lawreview/docs/issues/v26n1/16_Ridgely_vol_26_1.pdf

    needs to be changed, and as soon as possible. This is even more important when we reflect on how little of the economic benefit of the pipeline (the Supreme Court’s ostensible justification for deciding that “public use” encompasses economic benefit) will accrue to Virginia. I’ve read that Dominion has promised to not come onto a landowner’s property without permission, which is not only “too little, too late” but a feel-good sop to public attention that will go away as soon as no one’s looking.

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