AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. — After months of rallies and protests against Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, some people in Augusta County plan to watch what goes on underground from above ground.
Time continues to tick as plans for Dominion’s proposed pipeline move forward. Whether the pipeline will be built is still up in the air, however the project is still concerning.
“Sick in the pit of your stomach to think this incredibly beautiful landscape in this part of the world that we are fortunate enough to live in and has been on a certain economical and societal track for 250 years. Gosh! To have that radically altered now to become an extracted economy,” said Michael Godfrey, who has lived in the Valley for over 15 years. He is concerned that the land he grew up on could become dangerous.
“Gas lines do blow up. They’re not particularly safe. Then there’s the business of the karst topography here which may make it fundamentally unsafe to put any such infrastructure,” continued Godfrey.
He has attended several meetings and has heard arguments on both sides and now he plans to take his fight against the pipeline from the ground to the sky.
Godfrey is a member of the group Pipeline Air Force. Its mission is to monitor the construction of the pipeline, if it gets to that stage.
Godfrey said that the pipeline will come within two miles of his home. He’s been flying for more than 60 years and said that these flights will be some of the most important of his life.
“I live here and it affects my life and my neighbors and my community, so I really don’t feel that I have a choice. No one does really when their community is threatened,” explained Godfrey.
Unlike Godfrey, not everyone thinks the pipeline is a threat.
“It needs to be done. We can’t get away from doing this,” said Scott Seaton, who supports the pipeline.
In a letter he wrote to a newspaper, Seaton stated most people in the Valley, from the richest to the poorest, will benefit from the pipeline.
“That pipeline will help keep our energy prices low. Without doing anything, the energy prices are going to go up, it’s going to hurt our economically disadvantaged people in our community,” explained Seaton.
“Energy is absolutely essential to modern life. We know that if we don’t have energy then things dissolve pretty quickly,” said Chet Wade, with Dominion Resources. He believes the Valley will reap several benefits from the pipeline.
“Augusta County will receive directly tax payments from it as all the counties will, but the bigger benefits will come across as economic boost, whether it’s during the construction when there are a lot of jobs, a lot of services that are used,” continued Wade.
In late 2014, Dominion sued more than 40 landowners in Virginia for refusing to allow the company to survey land.
With the route constantly changing, Wade said that agreeing to let the company survey doesn’t mean the pipeline will be built on the land.
“Letting us on a property to do a survey doesn’t mean that you agree with the pipeline. What it does is provide us with the kind of information that if there is a reason why the pipeline shouldn’t be on that piece of property, this is how we would find out,” said Wade.
Wade said the company is still years away from using eminent domain and that they’ve been paying attention to the public outcry.
Dominion said the pipeline shouldn’t affect property values and that safety is their top concern.
“We certainly understand their concerns but what I can tell you is that when the project is done, a lot of the area is going to look just like this area behind me. It’s going to look like a farmer’s field or a pasture,” explained Wade.
But that’s something that won’t fly with Godfrey.
“If that sucker blows, everybody within a half-mile diameter probably gets cooked. Nobody wants to buy a farm for heaven’s sake, with a peril like that under it,” said Godfrey.
For now, he’s staying grounded, waiting to see what happens next. No matter what decision is made, he said he’s ready to take his efforts sky high.
Dominion says that 70 to 80 percent of property owners on the route of the pipeline have granted access to have their land surveyed.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the final decision on whether the pipeline will be built. If approved, construction could begin as early as 2017.
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