Gas Pipeline Draws Support, Opposition, in West Virginia

Mar 11, 2017

Credit Seth Perlman / Associated Press

West Virginia residents were divided during the final state public hearing on the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would carry natural gas down the center of West Virginia for 195 miles.

Several urged state permit approvals for the project and its jobs. Some others at the Thursday hearing warned of damage from construction, erosion and the aerial herbicide spraying along the right of way that would continue perpetually.

Greg Hefner, a FirstEnergy manager representing the Harrison County Economic Development Corp., said construction would involve about $811 million in capital expenditures in the area, $47 million in state and local tax revenue and 4,500 jobs and pay taxes during its lifetime. "West Virginia simply cannot afford to lose out on this unique opportunity," he said.

But Tom Bond, a farmer and retired professor with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, said the company will take land in perpetuity, and other land will be affected. He added that the science shows fossil fuels are warming the planet's climate.

"It's my opinion that these are a disaster waiting to happen," Bond said of the new large pipeline projects proposed for West Virginia.

"The problem is the short-range outlook of most people," the 82-year-old said after the hearing.

The pipeline would extend south from north-central West Virginia through 11 counties to the Virginia state line and 108 miles through six counties in that state.

Kevin Williams said gas lines run across his family's farm, some 40 or 50 years old and some more recent. "I've seen good jobs and I've seen bad jobs. I'd like to say some of the newer ones, because of some of the environmental controls and things that are being required and put in place, they are better than a lot of the ones I've seen before."

According to the main developer, EQT Corp., the project's estimated cost is $3.5 billion. It would transport "abundant" natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations beneath the Appalachians with full service expected in late 2018, provided it gets needed approvals. EQT updated its application and proposed route at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October, a year after it was first filed, to protect environmentally sensitive areas and have the least impact on landowners, the company said.

West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection held three hearings this week in Summers, Webster and Harrison counties. The DEP is considering permits governing water quality, stream preservation and water pollution controls.

Agency officials said they will reply to each person who commented at the hearings.