In response to a proposal by Dominion Resources, Inc., to build a 42-inch natural gas pipeline across northern Pocahontas County, an environmental group has mobilized to inform the public about the dangers and oppose Dominion’s plan.
On Tuesday morning, representatives of the newly-formed West Virginia Wilderness Lovers (WVWL) gave a presentation to the Pocahontas County Commission about the certain consequences and potential dangers of a proposed natural gas pipeline crossing Pocahontas County.
WVWL founder Lauren Ragland described several negative impacts of pipeline construction, including blasting and cutting to build the pipeline, noise from compressor stations, truck traffic and the potential for catastrophic water pollution.
A map from Dominion shows the proposed pipeline crossing National Forest lands and several northern Pocahontas County rivers and streams, including Shavers Fork, and the West and East Forks of the Greenbrier River.
Ragland quoted Rick Webb, a retired University of Virginia senior scientist.
“This project cannot happen without long-term damage to the ecological and hydraulic integrity of the Allegheny Highlands – among the best and least altered landscapes on the East Coast of America,” she read.
Ragland said a 42-inch gas pipeline had never been built over a mountain range.
“There are some, but they’ve never gone over mountain ranges,” she said. “They would be blasting and drilling through Cheat Mountain and Shenandoah Mountain to get over to North Carolina.”
Noisy compressor stations, covering acres, would be located every 40-100 miles along the pipeline, Ragland said.
“These compressor stations run 24 hours a day, every day of the year, forever,” she said. “It makes a very horrible, roaring kind of noise.”
Commissioner Jamie Walker said the compressor station for Snowshoe Mountain’s snowmaking system makes a lot of noise, but never causes any complaints. Walker added that a farm tractor probably makes as much noise as a compressor station.
According to Ragland, county residents would have to deal with very heavy truck traffic for years during pipeline construction.
To further educate the public, Ragland said WVWL will give presentations at all Pocahontas County libraries this month, as well as a presentation to the Randolph County Commission on July 17. Ragland said more information is available on WVWL’s Facebook and Google Plus pages.
“We need to stand up for our area,” she said. “This is the height of tourism. There’s so many people all over the world that visit here. We need to be bold enough to ask you to listen to the people.”
Ed Wade, Jr., of Wetzell County, followed Ragland with a second presentation on pipeline issues. Wade responded to Walker’s comments about noise.
“I live one mile from a compressor station that houses 11 compressors,” he said. “At nighttime, windows and doors shut, TV on, I can hear it completely well – a mile away,” he said.
“Snow is made how many times a year for the resort?” Wade asked.
“Just the winter months,” responded Walker.
“These are 24/7, running all the time,” said Wade. “You’ve got to keep that in mind. People who come here for tourism, they’re not going to like that.”
Wade said Wetzell County had been largely despoiled by gas development.
“You all have what I used to have – the quietness, good roads, clean water,” he said. “It just amazes me the water here. No matter how deep it is, you can see the bottom. Back home, all that’s been jeopardized from this type of gas development.”
Blasting for pipelines had seriously degraded streams in other areas, said Wade.
“You’re subject to lose a lot of tourism money,” he said. “You’ll gain a little bit of money when this comes through, but if you push your tourism out of this county, you guys have nothing.”
Wade displayed several photographs of catastrophic damage from pipeline malfunctions in other areas.
Greenbrier River Watershed coordinator Leslee McCarty asked the commission what it could do if it decided to oppose the pipeline.
“My understanding is that a county commission has the authority to pass ordinances for public safety issues,” said Fleming. “That’s probably an option before us if we decided to do that. It no doubt would be challenged in court, but it is, to my thinking, within the jurisdiction of the County Commission to oppose it in very real ways.”
Cutting off further discussion, Fleming insisted that the 30 minutes scheduled on the commission agenda for the pipeline issue be followed, despite the commission’s previous disregard for agenda schedules.
Members of the public were not allowed an opportunity to speak, outraging The Pocahontas Times Editor Emeritus Bill McNeel.
“People came here and they want to say something, very briefly,” said McNeel. “What’s happened to this commission? This is a damned disgrace. People are here and want to talk to you all. This man took the day off work to be here.”
Neither Walker nor Commissioner Bill Beard intervened to allow further discussion of the issue.
Prosecuting Attorney Eugene Simmons told the commission that Snowshoe Mountains’ resort area district petition had been properly posted and published. Simmons told the commission it could proceed with the administrative task of certifying the petition. The commission voted unanimously to certify the petition as complete.
Public meetings are scheduled for July 7 at 5:30 p.m. and July 19 at 10 a.m. for the public to provide comments on the proposed resort area district. The commission is scheduled to act on the petition during the July 19 meeting.
In other business, the County Commission:
– Re-appointed Roger Trusler, Glenn Galloway and Sam Gibson to the Parks and Recreation board;
– Re-appointed Janet Ghigo, Don McNeel, and Christine Rebinski to the Emergency Medical Services board;
– Approved a letter to the State Auditor, stating no opposition to a 12 percent salary increase for elected officials;
– Approved a letter in support of a Monongalia County Commission petition to oppose an electricity rate increase;
– Approved a new contribution policy with a $5,000 per year limit;
– Agreed to get quotes for repair work to electrical items and floors in the Day Report Center;
– Agreed to sponsor the West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council meeting at NRAO, at a cost of $200.
– Auctioned a 2003 Dodge Durango to Jerry Green for $600; a 2006 Dodge Durango to Jerry Green for $1,050; and a 1999 Chevrolet pickup to Pat Beck for $2,800.
In other Courthouse news, Simmons said he had terminated Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Robert Martin’s employment with the county. No specific reason was given. Simmons said he has no plans to replace Martin at this time, and that he could handle the current caseload without assistance.