The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) held a public comment meeting on Monday, July 31, at the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Auditorium.
The meeting was the first of two scheduled meetings to receive public input on the 401 water certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The public input phase closes Friday, Aug. 4, with a decision coming no later than March 2018.
According to the WVDEP website “Section 401 Water Quality Certification is required for each permit or license issued by a federal agency to ensure that projects will not violate the state’s water quality standards or stream designated uses. States are authorized to issue Certification under Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act.”
The nearly two hour long meeting featured more than two dozen speakers seeking to have their voice heard.
The split between those in support and those opposed to the ACP being granted the certification was very close with many area residents speaking passionately about the subject.
Those in support of the ACP spoke of its economic benefits to the area. Mike Herron, the Director of the Lewis County Economic Development Authority (LCEDA) cited the recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission environmental report which stated that most of the ACP’s environmental impact could be reduced to less than significant levels provided the companies involved used the proper mitigation techniques.
Herron went on to say that the ACP was, “Good for business,” going on to note the royalty benefits to landowners, many of whom he said were farmers. Herron also touted natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal, noting that it produces less carbon than burning coal.
Herron also expressed confidence in Dominion and their construction contractor’s ability to execute the project in an environmentally safe manner.
Ryan Hauser of J.F. Allen also spoke in support of the ACP, receiving the certification referencing a recent article by U.S. News and World Report which had West Virginia ranked last in several economic categories.
He also noted that infrastructure vital in all areas of life and mentioned the roads that his company had helped build since its founding in the 1940s.
He said that building pipeline infrastructure was no different, and that it will allow the stockpiles of natural gas that West Virginia produces to reach a wider market.
Paul Richter, a resident of Buckhannon, rose to speak in opposition to the certification being granted.
Richter, who touted his educational background in the sciences, noted that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the impact of the ACP on water quality along its route. Richter went on to say that the companies involved lacked “site specific” plans to deal with possible issues with water that may arise from the ACP and its construction.
Justin Raines also spoke out against the ACP noting that the Rover Pipeline had recently been sent a cease and desist by the WVDEP in Doddridge County halting construction, and pointing out that the companies involved in that pipeline made similar promises of “best practices” to the ones he had heard earlier in the meeting from those supporting the certification.
Raines went on to recall a pipeline explosion that occurred in Sissonville in Kanawha County in 2012. He read the harrowing testimony Sue Bonham, a resident who lived near the pipeline gave to Congress. He then noted that the ACP is slated to be a 42 inch pipeline, and the one that had exploded in Sissionville was a 20 inch pipe.
The WVDEP will continue to collect public comments until Friday August 4, and those wishing to comment via e-mail may do so by sending comments to firstname.lastname@example.org