Consensus suffered a slow, pecked-to-death-by-ducks demise even though everyone agreed on one fundamental point — that the proposed route of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline in Montgomery County is for the birds.
Ultimately, after a prolonged debate, the county’s board of supervisors voted 5-1 Wednesday night to approve a resolution that voices the board’s opposition to the pipeline’s route as currently envisioned by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC.
The one “no” vote came from Supervisor Gary Creed. Supervisor Matt Gabriele was absent.
The debate focused on wording added by Supervisor Chris Tuck.
Creed essentially said he felt the amended version of the resolution was less weighty than the original because the amended resolution indicated supervisors might withdraw opposition to the pipeline route if it is reconfigured to avoid residential subdivisions such as Preston Forest and Brush Mountain Estates and routed to less populated areas of the county.
Creed said he does not want the pipeline to ruin even one person’s dream home, even if it’s a modest ranch house in a less populated area.
At one point, Supervisor Annette Perkins said she could support either version 100 percent but ultimately threw her 100 percent behind the amended resolution.
Tuck, Perkins and Supervisors Bill Brown and Todd King said Tuck’s addition left the door open for negotiations with Mountain Valley that might yield some benefits for the county, including the revised route all members sought.
Meanwhile, as the debate continued, there was recognition that even the most strongly worded resolution might carry little weight with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The board intends for the resolution to become part of the record with FERC for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a joint venture of EQT Corp. and NextEra Energy. FERC will ultimately decide whether the pipeline construction is justified and necessary.
As currently envisioned, the route of the 42-inch-diameter pipeline would traverse about 15 miles in Montgomery County as it transports natural gas from a transmission system in West Virginia to a delivery point in Pittsylvania County.
Mountain Valley recently reported it has reached out to 132 landowners in Montgomery County, seeking permission to study and survey their property for a possible pipeline route.
The joint venture has estimated the Mountain Valley Pipeline project costs will tally between $3 billion and $3.5 billion. Expenses will include acquiring easements from property owners, either through negotiation or through eminent domain.
The board’s communication to FERC cited a host of concerns about the potential adverse impacts of the pipeline. Those concerns included, but were not limited to, the anticipated prospect of:
- Impacts on the county’s scenic, recreational and sensitive environmental areas.
- Loss of property value for landowners associated with hosting, or being in the vicinity of, a pipeline easement.
- Threats to pipeline integrity from seismic activity tied to fault lines or from unstable ground conditions associated with the karst terrain that characterizes portions of the county.
- Contamination of groundwater, wells and surface water.
- Threats to public safety.
Pipeline proponents, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, have said that the Mountain Valley Pipeline could yield economic benefits for communities along its route, provide a cleaner alternative than coal for power generation and diversify the state’s energy mix.
So far, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors is the first such board in the five Virginia counties potentially impacted by the pipeline to voice a formal position about the project. The other counties in Virginia currently envisioned as pipeline hosts are Giles, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania.
Representatives from Mountain Valley Pipeline participated in a public meeting Nov. 5 at Blacksburg High School, a meeting that drew hundreds of people.
There was clear consensus Wednesday among members of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors that the pipeline representatives seemed ill-prepared and less than forthcoming that night in responses to many questions.
Pipeline officials are scheduled to make a public presentation to Giles County’s board of supervisors on Nov. 20, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Giles High School in Pearisburg.