[caption id="attachment_7699" align="alignleft" width="300"]<a href="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2015\/02\/GH_CoComm6Feb15sm.jpg"><img class="wp-image-7699 size-medium" src="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2015\/02\/GH_CoComm6Feb15sm-300x199.jpg" alt="A standing-room only crowd attended the Pocahontas County Commission meeting on February 6 to provide comments on a proposed Commission letter in support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Twelve local residents spoke against the letter of support. Three local residents, including one Dominion employee, spoke in favor of the letter of support. The Commission scheduled a second meeting to discuss and consider the letter on February 11." width="300" height="199" \/><\/a> A standing-room only crowd attended the Pocahontas County Commission meeting on February 6 to provide comments on a proposed Commission letter in support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Eleven local residents spoke against the letter of support. Three local residents, including one Dominion employee, spoke in favor of the letter of support. The Commission scheduled a second meeting to discuss and consider the letter on February 11.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nA proposed Dominion Resources 42-inch natural gas pipeline to be built through northern Pocahontas County has generated concern among local residents about damage to the Monongahela National Forest, degradation of waterways and the use of eminent domain. Several local residents aired those concerns during a special Pocahontas County Commission meeting on Friday, February 6.\r\n\r\nThe published agenda stated the purpose of the meeting was to discuss and act on a \u201cletter of support for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project.\u201d Several members of the public questioned the propriety of the agenda, which presupposed Commission support for the pipeline, and did not allow the possibility of a letter in opposition to the project.\r\n\r\nFifteen people took the opportunity to address the Commission during the meeting. Eleven people spoke in opposition to a letter of support. Three people, including one Dominion employee, spoke in favor of the letter of support, and one person requested more information before Commission action.\r\n\r\nUltimately, Commissioners William Beard, Jamie Walker and David McLaughlin stated support for the pipeline project, but scheduled a second meeting due to concerns about the agenda that had been published for the special meeting.\r\n\r\nRichard Ludwig, of Hillsboro, spoke in opposition to the pipeline. Ludwig said part of his family farm in Colorado had been taken by oil companies through eminent domain.\r\n\r\n\u201cFrom a farmer's perspective, it seems very enticing at first to go along with this,\u201d he said. \u201cBut what comes along later are repercussions that are unforeseen. We've had oil spills on our land and they don't even tell us about it.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cThe farmer needs to be empowered to say 'no,' Ludwig added. \u201cThey even have it to the point now in Colorado where we have to sign waivers if we want to walk on our own property. They don't reimburse us enough for the crop damage they do when they frack or put an easement through.\u201d\r\n\r\nAllen Johnson, of Frost, spoke in opposition to the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cI want to push for good jobs in the county and not the boom-bust,\u201d he said. If they build this in the northern part of the county, somebody's not going to build a motel for six months or for a year. You build a motel for decades to come. So, businesses are leery about boom-bust cycles.\u201d\r\n\r\nJohnson added that quality of life indexes for West Virginia are among the lowest in the nation, despite the state's long-running status as an energy exporting state and the state government's accommodation for coal, oil and gas companies.\r\n\r\nTom Epling, of Stony Bottom, spoke in opposition to the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe natural resources that we have here support and provide jobs for this county,\u201d he said. \u201cThe biggest employer in the county is Snowshoe ski resort. There's the Monongahela National Forest, that provides those kind of resources for people. The pipeline, if it goes in, is going to do permanent and irreparable damage to those resources and is going to cause loss of revenue for the people of this county in the long run.\u201d\r\n\r\nBob Runyon, of Stony Bottom, spoke in opposition to the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere's not going to be anything for the people of Pocahontas County from the pipeline except for the mess,\u201d he said. \u201cThere's no jobs, it's not a job issue. There will be nothing lasting, except the scar.\u201d\r\n\r\nRunyon responded to a statement by Commissioner William Beard that the pipeline would bring jobs to Pocahontas County.\r\n\r\n\u201cMr. Beard, if your concern for this county is jobs, I submit that if you want to keep jobs in Pocahontas County and promote good jobs, you will maintain and keep the resources that attract people here in the first place, rather than allow those resources to be compromised by clear-cutting pieces of the forest, causing steep slopes to have the trees removed from them and dumping sediments into rivers,\u201d he said. \u201cAll of those things detract from the resources that currently provide jobs to people in this county now.\u201d\r\n\r\nShay Huffman, of Hillsboro, spoke in opposition to the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhat's happening in other counties is that people's homeowner's insurance is being cancelled as they find that more and more breaches are occurring in these pipelines,\u201d she said. \u201cInsurance companies are saying, 'we're not going to insure you anymore because of this.' Everything I've read says that there is no benefit for our county. It's only a detriment. We are a tourism county and we are not going to increase tourism by putting in this pipeline.\u201d\r\n\r\nRobin Mutscheller, a Dominion employee, of Marlinton, spoke in favor of the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cI believe completion of the Atlantic Coast pipeline is important, not only to our county, but the State of West Virginia and our country as a whole,\u201d she said. \u201cI strongly urge you to support it. Thank you and let's keep the lights on.\u201d\r\n\r\nCharlie Sheets, of Green Bank, spoke in favor of the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cTax dollars that the county will receive is like manna from heaven,\u201d he said. \u201cIn the year 2020, they're estimating one million dollars in tax revenue for this county. This could be used for many community projects, far beyond any of our dreams.\u201d\r\n\r\nJohn Leyzorek, of Marlinton, spoke in opposition to the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cOne of the most fundamental liberties that this country was founded to protect is the right to own property,\u201d he said. \u201cOf all my other objections to the pipeline, maybe the most serious one is that, if this project is approved, it will have the power of eminent domain.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cA whole set of county commissioners lost their jobs only a few years ago through supporting a project that was going to take land by eminent domain,\u201d Leyzorek added. \u201cThe sentiment of the county has been and continues to be in favor of the right to own private property, which this project threatens.\u201d\r\n\r\nBeth Little, of Hillsboro, spoke in opposition to the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cI was kind of hoping that, as representatives of the whole county, that you guys would decide to just not take a position, and therefore you wouldn't be taking one side against the other,\u201d she said. \u201cThat's what they did over in Highland County.\u201d\r\n\r\nMickey Deike, of Cass, spoke in opposition to the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cI'm opposed to the pipeline because, if we're thinking about future generations, we want to think about what this county's going to be,\u201d she said. \u201cI've been here 50 years and I've seen very little change, which is really a blessing. I'm very nervous about what could happen, so I stand opposed to the pipeline.\u201d\r\n\r\nAlice Beecher, of Hilsboro, spoke in opposition to the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cI hope that the commissioners are considering the health and safety risks of having a pipeline this large running through the county,\u201d she said. \u201cI just read recently about a pipeline explosion in Brooke County. If you research pipeline explosions in the United States in the past 10 years, there have been many, many incidents - in some of which lives have been lost. Ten people were killed from a pipeline explosion in California. These are dangerous and they have risks.\u201d\r\n\r\nWater Resources Task Force Coordinator Grazia Appolinares requested that questions she had submitted to Dominion the previous week regarding local water sources be answered before the Commission takes a position.\r\n\r\n\u201cI would just suggest that these questions regarding our streams, our wells, our karst topography and all those effects on our resources should be answered first before making any decision,\u201d she said.\r\n\r\nTom Simkins, of Marlinton, spoke in favor of the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cOne of the things that hasn't been mentioned, a positive thing on the pipeline, is wildlife,\u201d he said. \u201cThere are wildlife openings that help the wildlife. Stream crossings - I was thinking about that. I fish up there. After the '85 flood and the '96, there was still trout up there. These stream crossings are really in only one place. They aren't like the '85 flood. I don't see that as a big problem.\u201d\r\n\r\nSimkins added that pipeline easements in Pennsylvania are enhancing recreation by providing trails for biking, hiking and skiing.\r\n\r\nWilliam McNeel, of Marlinton, spoke via speakerphone in opposition to the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cI just wanted to express my total opposition to the pipeline project,\u201d he said. \u201cI see absolutely no advantage whatsoever to the county, even during the construction process. The construction process on National Forest land is a bad idea and will detract from our tourism-based economy.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cMy main concern is a 42-inch pipeline crossing the watersheds of several of our rivers,\u201d McNeel added. \u201cThere's nothing more important in West Virginia than the quality of our water.\u201d\r\n\r\nSharon Kearns, of Hillsboro, spoke against the pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cI don't see any benefits for the county,\u201d she said. \u201cThe men that will come in will probably have their own trailers, so I really don't see any benefit to hotels. They usually drag their own trailers behind them.\u201d\r\n\r\nDominion State and Government Local Affairs Director Robert Orndorff answered questions during the meeting.\r\n\r\nLeyzorek asked Orndorff how many and what type of jobs would become available to Pocahontas County residents.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe operation of this pipeline will be under the Atlantic Coast Pipeline\u201d he said. \u201cThey will have an employment base that will start a the very beginning of the pipeline and will go to the very end of the pipeline. We are right now in the process of working with this new company to determine where those jobs will be and what types of jobs there will be, the types of jobs, specifically - roustabout jobs, right-of-way jobs, individuals that operate the pipeline. In Lewis County there will be compressor station operators.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cI cannot give you the exact amount because we don't know that yet,\u201d Orndorff added. \u201cWe are right now in the process of building this company and making that determination. There have been some numbers quoted for West Virginia. I'm not at liberty to quote those numbers. They're not significant, they're not in the thousands, but they're well-paying jobs.\u201d\r\n\r\nAfter hearing public comments, the three commissioners gave their views on the pipeline project.\r\n\r\nCommissioner David McLaughlin stated strong support for the pipeline, but not because of jobs.\r\n\r\n\u201cJobs, to me, is not an issue for the pipeline in Pocahontas County,\u201d he said. \u201cI'm looking at future years, beyond 2015, 2020 and 2025, what the pipeline can do for Pocahontas County. Revenue for the county. A significant amount of tax revenue will come to the county.\u201d\r\n\r\nOrndorff provided a Dominion spreadsheet that showed estimated pipeline property tax payments of more than $1 million per year by the year 2021.\r\n\r\nMcLaughlin said pipelines have a good safety record.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere's a very low percentage of failure on the pipeline when it's working,\u201d he said. \u201cThat's on record. They have a low percentage of failure.\u201d\r\n\r\nMcLaughlin said tourism would not suffer if the pipeline is built.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt's going to be five or six feet underground,\u201d he said. \u201cHow's it going to hurt tourism?\u201d\r\n\r\nMcLaughlin read a prepared statement.\r\n\r\n\u201cI feel I don't have to defend my position on the pipeline issue,\u201d he read. \u201cI believe the citizens of Pocahontas County made that decision for me in the May primary election. They knew my position on the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument, which I am opposed to, as well as the pipeline. I prevailed in that election by a popular vote. That's a popular vote. That's the whole county, not these few people here.\u201d\r\n\r\nCommissioner William Beard cited the need for economic growth.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis county needs some economy and growth to it,\u201d he said. \u201cWe're against windmills, we're against cell towers, we're against pipelines, we're against just anything that comes about anymore. I hope in meetings like this we can discuss the issues and we'll all learn more, but we do need to grow. We need some life in this county.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cAt this point, I'd like to move forward with what [the pipeline] can bring to the county,\u201d Beard added.\r\n\r\nCommissioner Jamie Walker said business people supported the pipeline project.\r\n\r\n\u201cIn the last week, I spoke with five different businesses from Marlinton to Durbin,\u201d he said. \u201cEverybody that I had talked to is in favor of it. They think that we have nothing to lose and we have a possibility of something to gain. Whether it's motel rooms, whether it's restaurants, whether it's supplies or whether it's people coming off the street to go to work, they say we need anything we can get at this point. That's all I've heard from the business end of it.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cI've been here for 39 years, since the day I was born,\u201d Walker added. \u201cI've watched the water flow. I've drank probably out of every creek in this county at some point in time. Ain't none of it killed me yet. I've watched the trees grow. But ain't none of that put one single dollar in my pocket.\u201d\r\n\r\nDue to concerns about the published agenda for the special meeting, the Commission scheduled a second special meeting on Wednesday, February 11 at 5 p.m. to discuss letters in support of or opposition to the pipeline project. See next week's edition of The Pocahontas Times for a report on that meeting.