Proposed Natural Gas Pipelines Threaten Scenic Western Virginia

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Federal agency fails to assess need for pipeline and its environmental impacts More »

The fate of Dominion Power’s unnecessary and environmentally risky Atlantic Coast Pipeline project is now in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.

The public comment period for responding to FERC’s draft Environmental Impact Statement closed Thursday, April 6 with tens of thousands of citizens submitting comments and signatures opposing the pipeline proposed to cut through 600 miles of land in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.

“If FERC approves this pipeline it will tie generations to an antiquated fossil fuel system for the sole purpose of enriching shareholders of Dominion Resources and Duke Energy,” said Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “There is no public necessity for a pipeline in a region where the demand for new gas-fired power generation is flat.”

SELC has submitted comments with detailed evidence that FERC’s draft environmental assessment contains misleading information and is missing adequate and accurate data concerning the most critical aspects of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Most importantly, FERC fails to take a step back and consider whether there is any true demand for this pipeline.

“The proposed pipeline would harm North Carolina rivers, streams, wetlands, and air quality—and the communities along the pipeline route that deserve clean air and clean water. It deserves a full environmental review, not a rubber stamp,” said Senior Attorney Gudrun Thomspon.

Among other things, FERC’s draft assessment of the pipeline fails to:

  • Consider the true market demand for natural gas in the region of the proposed pipeline
  • Take a hard look at the effects of the proposed route on predominantly minority and low-income communities
  • Consider the devastation construction would have across steep, forested Appalachian ridges; farmlands; rivers and wetlands
  • Recognize the potential devastation of vulnerable ecosystems and already endangered and threatened species
  • Assess impacts to two national forests

SELC submitted these comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement on behalf of a large coalition of conservation groups from across the region and is urging FERC to issue a revised draft of the EIS for public comment. 

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Streams and forests of the central Appalachian Mountains are in the crosshairs of four proposed interstate gas pipeline projects: the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Appalachian Connector, and the WB XPress Project. These projects would cut through valuable natural areas in Virginia and West Virginia, particularly sections of the George Washington, Jefferson, and Monongahela national forests, to move natural gas to the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

In order to deal with this proposed large-scale build out of new infrastructure, SELC is advocating for a region-wide study—called a programmatic EIS—that would include all four projects. This study would analyze the demand for natural gas, the available capacity of existing pipelines, and the need for new capacity, and identify the route or routes that could minimize harm to some of our state’s most scenic lands, important agricultural resources, and historic properties.

FERC has typically reviewed proposed pipelines in isolation from other projects. Perhaps that approach worked when pipelines were relatively rare occurrences, but it is no longer a viable when multiple projects, like the four proposed across the central Appalachians, are slated for the same region on the same schedule. The only way to unravel these interrelated proposals and ensure a careful and deliberate decision that is protective of the environment and local communities is with a comprehensive, region-wide EIS.

SELC is a founding member of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, a coalition of 43 organizations from across Virginia and West Virginia with grave concerns about the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. SELC has partnered with citizens who are acutely concerned about the risks to their agricultural and rural communities, including damage to scenic landscapes and the risk of pollution.

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