By JESSICA FARRISH
FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — With a Pennsylvania-based company purchasing land to construct a portion of a 303-mile natural gas pipeline through Fayette County and to build a compressor station at Stallworth, Fayette citizens Friday expressed concerns about noise pollution, potential explosions, leaks and county zoning changes to the county commission.
Elisabeth Tobey, a former California resident who moved to the state in 2013, likened West Virginia to a British colony.
“The rest of the United States is able to treat West Virginia as a Third World colony, and they’re behaving exactly as the British empire did with their colonies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” she said. “They’re taking what they can get and leaving pollution and illness and disarray in their wake, and it adds nothing to our state economy, compared to the cost that it creates.
“Unless this compressor station is an awfully, awfully good neighbor, I’m leaving,” said Tobey, who retired near Stallworth in 2013, investing $1 million in a farm where she and her husband raise cattle and sell all-natural, grass-fed beef. “I moved here to retire in peace and quiet in the country.
“This project threatens everything I came to this state for, and my investment. I’m going to write off my losses and move somewhere, unless they’re awfully good neighbors.”
Tobey’s property line is 1,500 feet from the compressor station property, she said.
Mountain Valley Pipeline representatives and other proponents attending the meeting included Brian Brown of the West Virginia Natural Gas and Oil Association, EQT lobbyists Nathaniel Manchin and Greg Hoyer, Jeff Klinefelter of EQT Corporation and MVP senior engineer Bill Jones and Jaime Kearns of the MVP Design and Engineer team.
EQT is an original investor on the project.
The commission hosted the presentation to allow the MVP panel to educate citizens on the proposed pipeline and to answer questions, Commission President Matt Wender said.
“We are going to be carefully listening today to the presentation,” Wender described the role of commissioners during the meeting. “We will just listen … but that doesn’t indicate a lack of interest.”
MVP representatives, in a computer presentation of data available at mountainvalleypipeline.info, reported that the 303-mile-long, 42-inch-round pipeline will be used to transport gas to southeastern markets, carrying natural gas from Equitrans transmission system in Wetzel County to Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company’s Zone 5 compressor station 165 in Pittsylvania County, Va., at a rate of 2 bcf (billion cubic feet of gas) per day.
The steel pipe that carries the gas is 34 inches thick with a protective coating and will be inspected by qualified construction inspectors. Inspectors will also oversee the welding, coating, installation and testing.
All welds will be X-rayed, and the pipeline will be pressure-tested before operation, MVP representatives said.
The 35 mainline valves on the pipeline will be monitored 24/7 and can be shut down if a gas leak is detected, MVP representatives said. Quality and flow of gas will be monitored continuously and the compression site will be outfitted with emergency shutdown systems and relief devices. MVP crews will make periodic maintenance inspections, including leak surveys and valve and safety inspections, MVP officials said.
Fayette residents were concerned with safety.
“Has your company ever constructed a 42-inch pipeline this length and in this terrain?” asked Brandon Richardson of Headwaters Defense, a local environmental rights citizens’ group.
An MVP attorney replied, “There are not that many pipelines this size and this length in the country, so the answer is no.”
When Richardson and Britt Huerta of Headwaters Defense asked if EQT crews had experience in building a pipeline on a steep hillside on similar terrain, MVP representatives said they had not.
Residents questioned how people in West Virginia and Fayette County will benefit from the compressor station and pipeline.
Tobey told The Register-Herald that she had been informed at a past meeting by MVP representatives that the pipeline could create three to five permanent jobs, none of which would be guaranteed for West Virginians.
“Putting in a pipeline is a specialty construction trade,” Tobey said. “Typically, what the companies do is bring in crews from out of state for the construction.”
She said that the remaining local construction jobs would not be long-lasting.
Tobey pointed out during the meeting that noise from the compressor station will be a concern. Although, by federal law, the station may be no louder than a suburban area at night or a library at the edge of the property (55 dba), Tobey said she wanted a peaceful retirement.
“I didn’t move here to hear a suburban night,” Tobey said.
She and her husband employ three local residents, she said.
“Unless this compressor station is an awfully good neighbor, I’m leaving and those jobs will go away,” she said.
According to MVP representatives, the project is expected to create at least 50 to 100 construction jobs for one year and could possibly create a few permanent jobs, but several Fayette residents said they didn’t see the benefit of having the pipeline and compressor station in their backyards.
“You guys are putting the most polluting aspect of a pipeline in this county,” said Huertas. “That’s just like, why?”
The project requires four parcels of land in the county, and MVP has purchased three already, according to statements made at the meeting.
The pipeline may require zoning changes. That would require at least two hearings before the Fayette Planning and Zoning Commission and, possibly, an appeal hearing.
Once the zoning hearings are complete, the Fayette Planning and Zoning Board will make a recommendation to the commission.
Fayette officials said MVP representatives have not yet applied for a re-zoning permit. Once it does, the county will advertise meeting times and dates for the re-zoning hearings in The Fayette Tribune.
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