Commission receives status update of ACP

Tim Walker
AMR Reporter

Denise Campbell, Community Liaison for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), along with Bob Orndorff and Jason Harshbarger from Dominion Energy, attended the October 1 meeting of the Pocahontas County Commission, and briefed the commission on the current status of pipeline construction.

Orndorff announced that he will be retiring as Dominion’s State Policy Director and introduced Jason Harshbarger as his replacement. Harshbarger delivered the update.

Harshbarger confirmed that the project is currently on hold due to legal challenges. He explained that construction was halted by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court for two reasons – the Rusty Patch Bumble Bee and the Appalachian Trail.

Harshbarger explained that because the path of the pipeline crossed the range of that endangered bumble bee, the APC did studies that determined that the bee would not be harmed by the construction which enabled them to obtain a “take permit.” He said that the 4th Circuit Court, however, ruled that those studies done by the utility were not sufficient. Harshbarger said that the ACP is currently doing additional studies that they hope will satisfy the Court.

Regarding the Appalachian Trail: While there are already 62 pipelines crossing under it, the Court ruled that even though the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service have been granted authority to regulate and permit almost all utilities that cross the trail, pipelines are not among those listed utilities, so the permits received by the ACP to cross the trail are invalid.

Harshbarger and Orndorff said that the court’s rulings are currently being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they are hopeful that there will be a favorable decision next spring to allow construction to resume.

All three pipeline representatives at the meeting said that they are confident that the pipeline will be built.

Also at this meeting, Vivian Parsons and Steve Rawlings of the West Virginia Counties Risk Pool (WVCRP) addressed the commission’s expressed concerns from an earlier meeting that the county did not have cyber risk insurance coverage. Parsons explained that the WVCRP is a self-insurance organization owned by 50 West Virginia counties that participate in it. She asked Rawlings to explain about cyber risk coverage since that is his area of expertise.

Rawlings said that Pocahontas County is covered by their basic cyber risk policy at no extra charge. That policy, he explained, is limited to payouts up to $250,000 per occurrence with an aggregate limit of $1 million for the entire state. He said that means that if the county were to suffer a large financial loss due to a cyber attack late in the year, after other counties had used up the aggregate $1million, there would be no money left for any other claims in the state, meaning that Pocahontas County’s claim would not be paid.

Rawlings said there is optional coverage available that the county could buy which would remedy the limitation of the basic plan. The optional plan would allow the county to receive claims up to $250,000 per occurrence – up to a total annual claim payout of $1 million, which is not limited by other claims by other counties in the state. They explained that the cost for this additional cyber attack coverage is available for $3,000 per year.

Rawlings explained that covered attacks include:

* Ransomware attacks in which an organization’s data can be encrypted and the victim has to pay large amounts of money to obtain a key to unencrypt their data. Harrison County recently was victimized by such a ransom- ware attack.

* Phising cyber attacks – an example of which, according to Rawlings, was an incident in another county where the Human Resources Department received an email from an employee asking them to change the bank account their paychecks were being automatically deposited into, which they did. Only later to find out that the employee did not send the email requesting the change of banking accounts, and the employees never received their pay.

He said that WVCRP also provides training to help avoid cyber attacks and in the event the county is attacked, provides a Cyber Breach Coach to assist the county in dealing with the attack.

The commission made no decision at this time, but will look into the pros and cons of the additional coverage.

In other business, the commission:

• authorized Mike O’Brien, in his capacity as Emergency Management Director, to apply for a $35,000 grant to purchase a pick-up truck to tow the Emergency Management’s trailers and to apply for a $25,000 grant to purchase radio equipment for Shavers Fork Fire and Rescue. Both of these grants have already been pre-approved and only needed commission approval.

• authorized O’Brien, in his capacity as 911 Director, to sell used 911 equipment by online auction.

• received the annual update of the Pocahontas County Senior Citizen Program from John Simmons. Simmons said that they have 29 employees, nine of whom are full-time and 20 are part-time (32 hours per week) employees. He said they operate two Meals on Wheels vehicles, one in Marlinton and one in Green Bank, which, combined, traveled 178 miles per day and delivered 8,720 meals last year. He also said they served 9,065 meals at the three Senior Centers last year. Simmons said they made 476 medical transports, operated their Homemakers Program and made shopping runs for seniors.

• approved the 2018-2019 county financial statement, which will be printed in The Pocahontas Times.

• approved sponsoring the Trunk or Treat Event to be held in the ARC parking lot from 5 to 7 p.m. on Halloween.

• authorized the creation of a non-interest bearing checking account to handle the funds for the Broadband Study Grant

• appointed Tim McClung to the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees for a six-year term.

The commission approved invoices prior to adjourning the meeting.

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