FERC Holds Pipeline Public Hearing in Nelson Co.

Posted: Updated: Mar 18, 2015 10:32 PM

The proposed natural gas pipeline that would cut through portions of central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley went under the microscope Wednesday night. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) heard from people who live along the proposed path in Nelson County.

Nelson Co. landowners and a foundation working to protect the region's natural resources are assessing all the damage that could be done by Dominion's proposed pipeline

The Rockfish Valley Foundation has been compiling all the historic, cultural, and natural resources in the path of Dominion Resource's Atlantic Coast Pipeline. 

Just across Route 151 from the foundation's home, the proposed pipeline would cut through the Horizons Village neighborhood.

Property owners in the 400-acre subdivision are putting together a study of the environmental impacts the pipeline could have on their community to present to FERC.

“The pit in your stomach cannot be described, because you have no rights,” said Carolyn Fischer of Horizons Village. “All of a sudden the land you have protected, that you have bought into no longer has any rights. It's a pretty serious threat.”

“The hydrology hasn't changed. The forest hasn't changed in 10 years. It does not take rocket science to put a pipeline route right over that and see the damage and risk you create,” said Craig Cooper with Rockfish Valley Foundation.

The RVF says many of those resources are still undiscovered and all are irreplaceable.

Dominion says Nelson County has the largest opposition to the project of all the counties along the proposed route for the pipeline.

"It's running right through our community. It's running through 55 acres of shared common land," said Laurie Shaffer of Nelson Co.

Shaffer says she sees similarities to one of the company's other projects, the G-150 pipeline in West Virginia, which has several state violations and has damaged the environment there.

"My husband asked them at the open house, ‘you've had these 16 violations, you have a suit against you, what are you going to do differently than you did there?' And their answer was we don't know," she said,

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is five times wider than the G-150, and it has Shaffer worried.

"I think this installation is probably larger and puts more things at risk geologically, and in terms of water resources than any other project they've attempted," she said.

However, Dominion says the advantages of the pipeline outweigh the disadvantages.

"Cleaner air, more jobs, additional tax revenue. Augusta and Nelson County alone will probably get around $3 million annually in tax property revenue," said Dominion Spokesperson Frank Mack.

Some supporters in the county agree the increased jobs would help keep young people from going elsewhere for work.

"What is there right now in Nelson County that pays well that will retain them? My thinking is natural gas pipeline will attract other businesses, and then there'll be an expansion,” said Bob Cleminson.

Shaffer and several others of the nearly 200 speakers that signed up say they're not convinced.

According to FERC, construction of the pipeline would disturb nearly 13,000 acres of land. Dominion and its partners want to build a 550-mile pipeline that would include a compressor station in Buckingham County.

The project has been endorsed by Governor Terry McAuliffe despite protests from people living along the proposed routes.

FERC must approve the pipeline project before any construction can take place. They are accepting comments from the public at its website until April 28.

Another FERC public hearing for Augusta County property owners will be held Thursday at Stuarts Draft High School at 7:00 p.m.

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