More than 130 people gathered in Virginia Western Community College’s Whitman Auditorium Monday to learn more about natural gas pipelines.
Sponsored by The Cabell Brand Center, the forum sought to present arguments from both supporters and opponents of those pipelines… with explanation about the roles local, state and federal governments play in evaluating proposals for three pipelines planned to cross Virginia.
A few years ago, the United States faced a natural gas shortage. Then hydraulic fracturing – often called fracking – enabled companies to wring oil and natural gas from deposits long thought too difficult to exploit. Now there’s so much natural gas producers need more pipelines to move it all. Three of those new pipelines would cross Virginia. John D’Orazio, president and CEO of Roanoke Gas Company, explained those pipelines can bring economic development.
“The Roanoke Regional Partnership estimates that of approximately 150 companies that have considered the Roanoke Valley as a possible site over the past twenty-four months, 80% of those were manufacturers. Approximately 80% of those required natural gas.”
Joe Lovett is executive director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, an environmental law and policy organization based in Lewisburg, West Virginia, that fights mountaintop removal coal mining. He argued the pipelines’ economic benefit is overstated.
“This is our choice, in this region and the nation, whether we want to latch on to another fossil fuel with the attendant boom and bust economy.”
While landowners, citizens and local and state government can participate in the pipeline approval process, State Senator John Edwards reminded the audience the final decision will be made in Washington.
“This is a federal project. It’s under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington. Ultimately, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will make the decision whether to go forward with the project and where and the conditions.”
Those decisions are still a long way off. The formal application for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would stretch 300 miles from Wetzel County West Virginia to Chatham, won’t be submitted until October and the companies proposing the pipeline don’t expect to begin pumping gas through it until late in 2018.