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Opposition to Pipeline Questions Validity of Survey on the Issue

Posted: Updated: Jun 28, 2015 07:36 PM
Spencer Phillips, working for Friends of Nelson County as a consultant. Spencer Phillips, working for Friends of Nelson County as a consultant.
NELSON COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

Opponents of Dominion's proposed natural gas pipeline through central Virginia are questioning the results of a new poll that shows a majority of people in favor of the project.

The Consumer Energy Alliance poll finds a majority of Virginians support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The poll says that 56 percent think the pipeline will increase jobs and bring a needed source of energy to the commonwealth. Many landowners in the pipeline's path are not convinced, however. 

The poll surveyed 500 registered voters in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, all places in the path of the proposed pipeline. At first glance, 56 percent support seems like an overwhelming number but, people in Nelson County say this poll leaves something to be desired.

Stu James has lived in his house just off Route 151 for 30 years. James was served with a lawsuit from Dominion in December, when he refused to allow the company to survey his land for its proposed natural gas pipeline.

He says there are many drawbacks that fail to show up in a new Consumer Energy Alliance survey. "If people are just told the pipeline is going to create jobs, and lower gas prices, and be good for everybody, if that's the message that's out there, they'll probably say yeah, I'm in favor of that."

The poll results were released Thursday by the industry-backed alliance. It surveyed a total of 500 people.The results given are as follows: 56 percent of Virginians, 70 percent of people in West Virginia, and 55 percent of voters in North Carolina said they are in favor of building the pipeline.

Dominion says the poll reinforces its year-long effort. In a statement, the energy company says: "The poll confirms what the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's companies have known since the project began - that there is strong support for the project all up and down its 550 mile length in the three states."

Spencer Philips is working with the anti-pipeline group Friends of Nelson as a consultant. He argues the poll is not an accurate representation of the majority.

"All it says is that some randomly selected group of individuals, 42% of whom had never heard of the pipeline, a bunch of those people are in favor of it. That doesn't tell FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) anything useful about whether they should issue a certificate of need and give Dominion the right of eminent domain to take the land for this pipeline," says Spencer Phillips of Key-Log Economics.

Phillips calls it a popularity poll that strays from the heart of the issue. "To what extent do the people answering the questions really represent any sort of opinion?"

Dominion will announce it's preferred pipeline route in August. It will then be up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve or deny the request.

A new online petition is raising awareness of the opposition to the pipeline project. A petition titled Stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has already gathered nearly 16,000 signatures on the website Care-2 Petitions.Author Jen Johnson writes that her goal is to send the petition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to show that the proposed pipeline faces significant opposition from around the world.

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