The West Virginia Public Service Commission traveled to Shepherdstown this week for a public hearing to address concerns about a pipeline expansion project in the Eastern Panhandle. About a hundred people showed up to rally before the event. Dozens went on to speak during the hearing – and many took the opportunity to mention the controversial Rockwool manufacturing company.
Martinsburg resident Stewart Acuff was one of several people who spoke against the pipeline and Rockwool at the PSC’s hearing Wednesday night.
“The people of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia have said over and over and over again in huge numbers, we don’t want this damn pipeline, and we don’t want Rockwool,” Acuff said.
Many attendees asked the PSC commissioners not to approve Mountaineer Gas’ expansion pipeline into the Eastern Panhandle.
That pipeline is being built between Berkeley Springs and Martinsburg, and construction began in March. It will be more than 22 miles long.
Project developers Mountaineer Gas and TransCanada say the pipeline will bring natural gas to Jefferson and Morgan Counties.
Mountaineer Gas has proposed to invest nearly $120 million for infrastructure replacements and system upgrades from 2019 through 2023, including roughly $16.5 million for ongoing investments to expand and enhance service in Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
But several residents at the hearing shared concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the Panhandle’s karst geology of sinkholes, springs and caves.
Speakers also mentioned a controversial insulation manufacturing plant being built in Ranson just a few miles from public schools and homes. The plant, Denmark-based Rockwool, will make stone wool insulation. The Ranson facility would feature two, 21-story smokestacks releasing chemicals like formaldehyde.
Rockwool has said the gas pipeline would be crucial for its operation.
“Rockwool has been working with Mountaineer Gas Company,” said General Counsel for Rockwool North America Ken Cammaroto. “And we have committed to being a loyal gas customer to Mountaineer Gas.”
Of the roughly 100 people who came out to the hearing, about five spoke in favor of the pipeline and Rockwool plant.
PSC Communication Director Susan Small says the commission will now have two months before making a ruling on December 28. The public can still submit formal comments on the issue online.