All Pain for Property Owners:
Surveying Without Consent:
Since announcing its intention to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Virginia, Dominion Power has been requesting permission to survey private residential and commercial properties along their proposed route. Many property owners have refused the request in order to protect their property from trespass and stop the progress of the ACP, but VA law 56-49.01 allows a natural gas company access to private property for survey purposes even without the owner’s permission. Property owners also face prosecution or extensive fines if they move or remove survey stakes on their property placed there by surveyors.
Property Rights Loss through Eminent Domain:
Just as property owners do not have the right to refuse Dominion Power’s request to survey their property, Virginia Constitution Article I, § 11 empowers an authorized utility service such as Dominion to acquire property rights or damage private property without the consent of the property owner if the acquisition or damage provides a significant public service. Small businesses, thriving farms that have remained with the same family for generations, and irreplaceable recreational and historic sites are all at risk if owners do not have the right to refuse the ACP’s trespass of their property.
Decline in Property Values:
Construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline requires cutting at least a 125-foot clearing (the size of an interstate highway) along the length of the pipeline. This will include clear cutting of forests, crops, and backyards and will result in a permanent 75-foot wide scar along the pipeline’s route that will last for generations. The presence of a 42-inch natural gas pipeline will also make both residential and commercial property less attractive to potential buyers in the future and undevelopable in many cases. Trees cannot be planted within the easement and no buildings can be constructed there.
All Pain for the Environment:
Oversized Pipeline, Unstable Terrain:
The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be constructed of 42-inch pipe designed to carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas (methane) per day. Dominion Power has never before constructed, operated, or maintained a pipeline of this size, so the ACP may pose a greater risk for hazardous contamination incidents given Dominion’s lack of expertise with a project of this scale and complexity.
The pipeline will also be laid across the diverse and mountainous landscape of western Virginia, crossing both sides of at least 20 steep forested mountains in the central Allegheny Highlands. The proposed ACP route features unique topography, including karst, caverns, and massive sinkholes that can occur without warning and compromise the safety of communities and of the pipeline itself. In some counties, seasonal erosion, landslides, and flooding could result in pipeline rupture or spillage, putting both the natural environment and human safety at great risk.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline presents a direct risk to our municipal and drinking water supplies as well as the aquatic habitats of wild species and recreational waterways enjoyed by countless visitors every year.
According to a study conducted by Emery and Garrett Groundwater Investigations, water quality and quantity will be threatened by blasting during pipeline construction. Blasting chemicals will be introduced into the groundwater system, and blasting can open up fractures which contribute to sinkholes. Blasting can also decrease well and spring yields by collapsing well bores or lowering the water table, or altering the course of underground streams, thereby threatening citizens who depend on wells for potable water for their homes, farms, and businesses.
Construction of the ACP will require excavating under streams, wetlands, and riparian groundwater. According to Rick Webb, a Senior Scientist with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, it will be impossible to avoid “degradation of aquatic habitat and water resources, including heavy sedimentation of streams, alteration of runoff patterns and stream channels, disturbance of groundwater flow, and damage to springs and water supplies.”
Dominion’s track record of upholding environmental safety regulations is questionable. According to an October 2014 report from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Dominion’s 2012 G-150 natural gas pipeline construction project in West Virginia resulted in the pollution of several adjacent waterways with sediment deposits. The DEPC has fined Dominion for unlawful pollution and a failure to comply with regulations and best practices to ensure environmental and public safety. This pipeline project on which Dominion failed to protect the water and habitat in its path is small compared to the ACP and offered none of the extreme challenges that will present themselves if this proposed pipeline comes to fruition.
Forest Fragmentation and Endangered Species At Risk:
Clear cutting during construction of the ACP will fragment densely forested areas, reduce habitats, and restrict movement for many animals native to western Virginia, including several listed as Endangered Species and several found nowhere else on earth. Even when the pipeline has been successfully buried and grass planted above it, original forest conditions cannot be replicated, and invasive plant species will appear and disrupt or destroy the natural balance of the local ecosystem. Dominion has indicated that it will monitor for invasive species, but the land beneath Dominion power line corridors in Shenandoah National Park is overgrown with ailanthus, an invasive species from Asia that has crowded out native plant species and destroyed native habits. Dominion has done nothing to correct this situation.
ACP construction will necessitate the clear cutting and removal of a significant number of Red Spruce trees, which will directly impact the Northern Flying Squirrel, a registered Endangered Species (2008) that depends on the Red Spruce for its habitat. The Indiana Bat is also protected by both the Virginia and United States Endangered Species Acts and inhabits caves and roosts within the ACP construction corridor.
The ACP’s current route also crosses native brook trout streams as well as Laurel Fork, the George Washington National Forest Special Management Area and watershed in Highland County, which contains 90 documented state-rare species. Laurel Fork is considered by many to be the “wildest area in Virginia’s wildest county,” but the intrusion of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will change this forever.
All Pain for Small Businesses:
Virginia Businesses Run on Clean Water:
Virginia’s thriving agriculture, tourism, and craft beverage manufacturing sectors rely on clean water to attract visitors and customers and produce superior products worthy of their respected brands. Contaminated municipal water supplies, private wells, and waterways disturbed or obstructed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could decrease revenues and damage the reputation of established businesses along the proposed ACP route.
Blue Mountain Brewery opened in 2007 as a pioneer in rural Virginia craft beer production and has built its national award-winning reputation on brewing, bottling, canning, and kegging onsite using deep well water and locally grown hops and barley of the highest quality. Blue Mountain crafts 10,000 barrels of beer annually and treats all waste water through a recirculating wetland. Owner Taylor Smack says that “the clean water in this region is an integral part of the success of our brewery.” The ACP could stall the growth of one of rural Virginia’s most successful small business startups and prevent other businesses that rely on water purity from locating in Virginia.
Miller’s Bake Shoppe of Stuarts Draft has been serving fresh, all-natural breads, pies, and pastries to the Shenandoah Valley for more than ten years. The bakers make everything by hand in the Mennonite tradition and are known for their delicious, preservative-free products made only from the freshest ingredients, including clean local water. On a typical day, Miller’s sells approximately 100 loaves of bread, and during the winter holiday season, they sell as many as 8,000 dinner rolls, with Virginians forming a line around the block to take Miller’s baked goods home to their holiday table. Any contamination to the local water supply as a result of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could cripple a business that is quickly becoming an institution in the Shenandoah Valley.
No Organics in the Pipeline’s Path:
According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, organic farming is one of the fastest growing sectors of agriculture in the United States, with the industry growing by more than 20 percent each year. Many Virginia farmers have joined this movement and earned organic certification for their crops, livestock, or agricultural products, but farmers in the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will lose their organic certification as a result of irreparable groundwater contamination during pipeline construction. Price points for non-organic produce are consistently lower, so profits for these farmers will decrease, and they will be excluded from the growing market across the Commonwealth for local, organic produce and meat and dairy products.
All Pain for Public Safety and Peace of Mind:
High Risk for Little Reward:
If a slow, long-term natural gas leak goes undetected, natural gas has the potential to enter the aquifer system and travel to wells used for domestic, industrial, or public use. Concentration of natural gas from groundwater can result in a highly explosive atmosphere, placing lives and property at risk. A sudden leak, explosion, or fire can also have catastrophic consequences: between 1994 and 2013, natural gas pipeline accidents in the U.S. resulted in 41 fatalities, 195 injuries, and $1.6 billion in property damage.
In official statements, Dominion claims it will construct, maintain, and operate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in full accordance with federal regulations, but these regulations have not prevented significant incidents which have led to fatalities, property damage, and environmental compromise in recent years:
In 2012, the Columbia Gas pipeline exploded in Sissonville, West Virginia, destroying three homes and melting the asphalt from four lanes of Interstate 77. The fire burned for more than an hour, and it took Columbia Gas more than an hour to stop the flow of natural gas to the explosion site.
In 2010, a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. pipeline in San Bruno, California exploded, killing 8 people, injuring 66 others, and destroying 38 homes. The explosion left a 167-foot crater in a residential street, and it took Pacific more than 90 minutes to stem the flow of natural gas to the explosion site.
In 2008, a Williams Transco pipeline exploded in Appomattox, Virginia, destroying two homes and injuring five people. Federal investigators determined the cause of the explosion was years of pipeline corrosion and insufficient maintenance. Williams Transco was found in violation of federal regulations and fined nearly $1 million for failing to monitor and address the dangerous corrosion.
- In 2005, public safety officers and pipeline operators in Bergenfield, NJ responded to a leak in a Public Service Electric and Gas distribution pipeline but were unaware that gas had migrated underground to a nearby apartment building. The neighborhood was not evacuated, and a half an hour later an explosion and fire in the apartment building killed three people.
Emergency Response Preparedness:
Local fire departments along the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route have worked hard to prepare themselves for any emergency that is likely to face their community. However, the ACP, if compromised, poses a potential threat of such magnitude that local first responders lack both the training and the personnel to respond to a pipeline fire quickly and proportionally. The proposed pipeline also travels through “high consequence areas” meaning that there are large numbers of structures and vulnerable individuals, such as school children and nursing home residents, within close proximity to the pipeline route.
No Price on Peace of Mind:
For many Virginians, life in the current economy is challenging enough without the added worry of a potentially hazardous pipeline in their own backyard. For property owners whose land has been sacrificed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the threat of a disaster will be ever-present. Even if a major incident never occurs, Virginians living within within the ACP’s path will fear for their own safety and the safety of their children, their homes and businesses, and the natural beauty of Virginia’s forests and farms.
All Pain for Local Heritage and History:
So much of Virginia’s history is evident along the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: from early Native American settlements to 19th century farmhouses to slave cemeteries, the story of Virginia itself can be told through the places and artifacts which are now at risk of being altered or destroyed by the ACP. The proposed route crosses through the Shenandoah Valley National Battlefields District in Highland and Augusta Counties. This federally-designated area was formed to remember the Civil War’s hallowed ground.
The proposed route also crosses the National Park Service’s Lewis and Clark Eastern Legacy Trail, recently recognized by the Virginia General Assembly. John Colter, an important scout on that famous expedition and later an explorer and mountain man in the Rockies, was born on a farm in Stuarts Draft, in Augusta County. One of the proposed pipeline routes crosses through that farm.
One proposed route for the ACP included the Historic Wingina estate, which began as a Monacan Indian settlement before the land was granted to Dr. William Cabell in 1738. The property has remained with the same family for 277 years and its current residents, Andrew and Digna Gantt, have discovered many Monacan artifacts such as axes, tomahawks and bowls on their property. The site of the Monacan settlement is only a third of a mile from one of the proposed routes of the ACP. The 800-acre Wingina estate operated as a plantation before the Civil War, also holds a family cemetery and a slave graveyard. Most of the property is forested, but the house has been recommended by the Commonwealth for the National Register of Historic Places.
The Rose Estate is owned by Reverend James Rose, a descendant of Albemarle County slaves who became owners of a 28.5 acre parcel following Emancipation. Reverend Rose’s property, which is subject to invasion by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, holds a cemetery spanning two centuries of the Rose family, including former slaves. Born in 1937 and raised in a house with no electricity or running water, Reverend Rose moved to New York and became a traffic officer with the NYPD for 20 years before returning to take possession of his family’s estate., It is here he feels most at home and best able to honor his ancestors, making sure to keep the cemetery grass trimmed and the graves clean, though some only have field stones for markers. In an interview with C-Ville Weekly, Reverend Rose said, “I didn’t want the land to get out of our hands… Our foreparents, they held onto it too hard. And the held onto it all those years.” Reverend Rose expects one day to be buried on his property beside his family, and he hopes a natural gas pipeline will not be buried beside him. The future building sites preserved for his relatives are threatened by the ACP.
All Pain for Future Generations:
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will permanently scar Virginia’s beautiful mountains and fields, invade our private property, threaten the safety of our water, and limit the viability of small businesses in the pipeline’s proposed path. If we allow Dominion to proceed with their current plans, we are sacrificing not only our own rights to privacy, safety, and peace of mind but also the privacy, safety, and peace of mind of our children. Future generations of Virginians will inherit the risks of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and children throughout the Commonwealth are already voicing their concern.