By Dan Heyman, Public News Service
CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Dominion Energy and its partners say they are surveying an alternative route for part of the controversial Atlantic Coast natural-gas pipeline. Opponents say it’s not an improvement.
MAP: Dominion and its partners are surveying an alternative route for part of the controversial Atlantic Coast natural-gas pipeline. The current path is in blue, the alternative in black. Map submitted by Dominion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The new route would send the 42-inch pipeline south of the current proposed path in Randolph and Pocahontas counties of West Virginia and in Highland County, Virginia.
Beth Little, a Pocahontas County resident with the Eight Rivers Council, says the alternative route would miss some environmentally sensitive areas. But she says it would send the pipeline through land that’s more cut up, harder and riskier to build in.
“They like to go straight up and down or along the top of a ridge because the side-slopes cause them difficulty both in construction and probably in the stability of the pipeline,” says Little.
The $5 billion, 550-mile pipeline would carry one and a half billion cubic feet of gas a day from northern West Virginia as far as North Carolina. Dominion says it would lower natural-gas prices, which should create more than 2,000 jobs.
The new route would go nearer to recreation areas including Snowshoe ski resort. It would avoid much of the Monongahela National Forest but go through more national forest land in Virginia. Little says legal restrictions on building in some protected land might be part of the reason for the new path; that and Forest Service rules.
“Not having an alternative is violating national forest regulation,” says Little. “They might have to throw out an alternative just to satisfy that and still pick their preferred route.”
The pipeline has provoked intense opposition from environmental organizations and landowners, especially in Virginia. The old route would cross Pen Goodall’s sheep farm, which straddles the border between Highland County, Virginia, and Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
He’s being sued for refusing to allow Dominion surveyors onto his land, but says he’d rather go to jail than let them survey.
“I’m going to stand my ground because it will just totally destroy everything I have ever done,” says Goodall. “My farm has around 32 springs on it, and creeks and once it’s gone, it’s gone.”