Sarah Murphy, of Nelson County, recalls growing up in the Appalachian hills, but when she hopped up on the back of her horse, Rob Roy, and left Staunton, Virginia, it wasn’t simply a desire to travel more of the Mountain State or simply to seek new adventures.
Murphy riding the rolling hills where the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is proposed to flow natural gas out of the Appalachias. The ACP is a 600-mile underground pipeline which starts in West Virginia, travels through Virginia and ends in Robeson County, North Carolina.
The pipeline will transport gasoline for energy to consumers in Virginia and North Carolina, according to the ACP website. Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Southern Company Gas and Piedmont Natural Gas all combine efforts to develop this pipeline.
“I wanted to bring attention to it, and fight it while we still can,” Murphy said during a pit stop at a Weston business on Friday. “... It was all going through the land I grew up in and played outside as a kid, ran around in the woods.”
Her trip to Lewis County took about three weeks. Some of the time she was riding horseback, other times she was walking and trying to give Rob Roy breaks in between as much as she could. She said Rob Roy was also carrying some gear.
“We went over some pretty serious mountains. The Allegheny Mountains are about 3,150 ft. in elevation, so we were both huffing and puffing up it. Then, you start going down the mountain, and that’s when you wanted to quit, but we already did the worst part,” Murphy said.
This wasn’t the first time she made a long distance trip like this. About six years ago, she rode horseback from Virginia to Kentucky. However, this time, she is traveling the proposed ACP line into North Carolina. It will be Rob Roy’s last big “hurrah” before he retires. He is 24.
“This is going to be almost three times or more of that [trip to Kentucky] by the time this is finished,” she said. “The pipeline is going close to our farm in Nelson County, so I’ve decided to bring some attention to it and fight it while we still can. It’s been funny to me to see in West Virginia, where all that stuff has already been established, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of resistance, but in Virginia, we’ve been fighting pretty hard.”
Dominion Energy Media Relations Manager Aaron Ruby said everyone has a voice and the right to their own perspective, but in his experience, “the overwhelming majority of West Virginians and the communities where the project is being built are supportive and excited about the thousands of new jobs this project is creating for hardworking West Virginians...”
Once you get closer to the issue, it becomes more complicated, she added.
“I don’t want anyone to lose their jobs, but we have the technology to move away from these resources that we know are finite,” she said.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline website estimates the project creates more than 17,000 jobs which aid in economic growth.
Ruby said the project assists Dominion Energy with investing in cleaner and more affordable electricity and is an incredibly important project to make the transition from coal to cleaner burning natural gas.
“It’s also going to provide the infrastructure West Virginia gas manufacturers need to get their product to market,” Ruby said. “WV is very fortunate to have abundant natural gas resources, but the challenge is that we don’t have the infrastructure in place to bring that natural gas to the market. It’s a way for WV natural gas producers to get their product to the market and put thousands of hardworking West Virginians back to work.”
“I respect this individual’s rights to express her opinions,” he added. “I think the vast majority of West Virginians have a different take on this project and have been overwhelmingly supportive.”
Ruby said the ACP project actually helps Dominion Energy invest in renewable resources.
“This project plays an important role in all the things our company is doing to invest in renewables... investing billions to build new solar and offshore wind infrastructure across the region. Solar and offshore wind are only capable of producing power 30-40 percent of the time. Consumers are using energy around the clock, and we need to be able to meet those requirements around the clock.”
Ruby said natural gas is a great backup to ensure those usage demands are met.
“The two have to go hand-in-hand,” he said.
Murphy said she has spoken with both pipeliners and residents, those for and against the project, including many residents whose property was sought for the pipeline route, but they were worried about their well water and the environmental impact.
“One woman put it pretty well,” Murphy said. “You pray that it won’t go through your own property, but at the same time, that just means that you’re hoping it goes through someone else’s.”
Throughout her journey so far, Murphy said she has met many people and is gracious of the hospitality she has been offered. An unnamed Lewis County resident allowed her to stay overnight on their property. Murphy said she is worried about the trip at this time of year because of the cold, and limited funds, but people have been very helpful and generous to her so far.
“You meet the people you are supposed to meet,” she said.
When she stopped at Subway in downtown Weston, she met an employee there, Debbie Godfrey, who said she has Murphys in her family.
Godfrey said she was also happy to meet Rob Roy because she loves horses. Another employee, Rachel Johnson, said that when a woman strolled up on horseback they were pleasantly shocked.
For more information on Murphy’s goals, please visit her blog, www.acponhorseback.tumblr.com. For more information on the ACP project, visit atlanticcoastpipeline.com