By BETH HENRY-VANCE
BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — People from all over the state gathered Monday evening to share their comments, suggestions and questions relating to water quality certification for a proposed pipeline project.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection hosted the public hearing about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s water quality permit at the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Auditorium. A second public hearing about the project’s water quality certification is set for 6 p.m. today at the Pocahontas County High School Auditorium in Dunmore.
Many people who shared comments in favor of the project said it will be safe and will be a big boost for the state’s economy, while many who are against it are worried about water quality and environmental concerns, as well as possible dangers if there would be an explosion.
As proposed, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route will begin in Harrison County and travel southeast about 100 miles before crossing into Virginia. One mile will be located in southwestern Harrison County and about 20 miles will be located in northwest Lewis County.
The pipeline route will include about 23 miles in Upshur County, running south of Buckhannon and Tallmansville; about 30 miles in southwestern Randolph County; and about 25 miles in Pocahontas County near Slatyfork and Dunmore. The pipeline will be 42 inches running underground.
Dominion Energy is the company that plans build and operate the 600-mile pipeline, along with Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas.
Speaking in favor of the proposal, Don Nestor, a certified public accountant from Buckhannon with a background in the oil and gas industry, said he views the pipeline as similar to an interstate or major highway — something that will attract development and can benefit the state.
“I think the oil and gas industry and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline … are important for the future,” Nestor said. “I request that you rule in favor of the ACP.”
Also speaking in favor of the pipeline, Larry Cavallo, of Bridgeport, said he has more than 30 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, and he is certain the ACP would be built and operated in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
“Dominion and its lead construction contractor have more than 200 years’ experience safely building pipelines in steep, mountainous terrains across the United States,” Cavallo said. “Dominion itself has built more than 2,000 miles of pipelines through the mountains of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. I have every confidence that Dominion and its construction contractors have the experience, the knowledge and the expertise to build this pipeline the right way — safely, and with minimal impacts to our environment.”
Another person speaking in favor of the pipeline Monday was Mike Herron, director of the Lewis County Economic Development Authority, who said the project has been carefully analyzed for potential impacts to the environment.
“Lewis County believes that this is a vitally important infrastructure project,”Herron said, explaining he thinks it will be good for business and for the state’s residents.
One of the people against the proposal was Justin Raines, of Lewis County, who said he worked in the natural gas industry for 12 years and saw co-workers who suffered workplace injuries.
Raines also discussed a 20-inch natural gas pipeline that caused an explosion Dec. 11, 2012, near Sissonville. He read testimony from Sue Bonham, who was terrified by a wall of flames and suffocating heat as she witnessed the explosion, which destroyed her home, her neighbors’ homes and a section of Interstate 77.
“This pipeline is not going to make us rich,” Raines said, adding he thinks natural gas is not safe. “They want to bury a bomb in our backyard.”
Another person speaking against the project was Laura Yokochi, of Harrison County, who said she understands the need for natural gas and uses it in her home. However, she said she thinks the pipeline’s potentially negative impacts to the state’s water resources are not worth it.
Yokochi asked the DEP to protect the water for the future, and not make it easier for companies to make money off the state’s natural resources.
James Kotcon, chairperson of the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, was another person speaking against the proposal. He asked what the DEP plans to do to ensure this proposed pipeline will not explode, leak or cause any other problems that have happened with other pipelines in the state.
Kotcon also asked that the DEP require site-specific plans for each stream crossing, to ensure that the pipeline’s construction would not damage or permanently alter the state’s streams and waterways, through sedimentation, erosion and other negative environmental impacts.
The DEP’s 401 Water Quality Certification is for activities that will or may discharge fill into waters of the state. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project is proposing to mitigate for streams and wetlands that would be permanently impacted by this project.
According to the permit application, the proposed project “will have temporary impacts to approximately 36,071 linear feet of streams and 31.18 acres of wetlands resulting from mainline pipeline construction and temporary access roads in West Virginia during the construction phase. It is anticipated that ACP will permanently impact an estimated 7,341 linear feet of streams and 4.40 acres of wetlands primarily due to permanent access road improvements.”
To view the application for 401 Water Quality Certification for this project, anyone interested can visit www.dep.wv.gov/WWE/Programs/Pages/401Certification.aspx.
Any interested person may submit written comments through Friday on the State 401 Water Quality Certification. Comments should be addressed to the Director of the Division of Water and Waste Management, and they can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to: WVDEP, Division of Water and Waste Management, ATTN: Laura Cooper, 601 57th Street SE, Charleston, WV 25304-2345.
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