Coming soon to a neighborhood near you. Or maybe not.
The latest alternate route for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline seeks to avoid “sensitive geologic features,” according to the company, such as caves and sinkholes in Giles County.
Alternate 200, which the company describes as “an enhanced and improved” version of an earlier route, would also bypass a wooded subdivision that has been a hotbed of well-informed opposition in Montgomery County and pull some new landowners into the fray.
Specifically, Mountain Valley reported that alternate 200 could affect 56 parcels of land previously outside the path of what would be a 42-inch diameter buried transmission pipeline transporting natural gas at high pressure.
More broadly, alternate 200 could have implications for property owners in Giles, Craig, Montgomery and Roanoke counties. If the new alternate eventually becomes a segment of the 300-mile long pipeline, it will likely please some people and antagonize others.
The route of alternate 200 is mapped on the company’s website, mountainvalleypipeline.info.
David Seriff, a resident of the Preston Forest subdivision in Montgomery County, opposed the pipeline project even before one alternative seemed destined to travel through the heart of his home.
Seriff emphasized Thursday that he remains resolutely opposed to the pipeline. He and other foes have described the project as an environmentally destructive, ill-advised investment in a fossil fuel by a private company threatening to acquire rights-of-way with eminent domain across private property.
But alternate 200 is a lesser evil, Seriff said, than an earlier attempt to detour around his subdivision.
“I do not want any pipelines,” he said. “However, this new route 200 does make a lot of sense because it avoids Preston Forest in its entirety,” affects fewer property owners in that vicinity, avoids many karst features in Giles County and does not travel a narrow, rocky ridge.
But Seriff knows that either celebration or its opposite would be premature.
Mountain Valley’s Maurice Royster emphasized in emails to county officials Wednesday that the company continues to evaluate previously identified routes. Royster is a manager of government affairs for EQT Corp., one partner in Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC.
Royster wrote it would be “premature for MVP to eliminate any routes from consideration” and said the company will evaluate all routes “until we submit our certification application to [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] later this year.”
As proposed, the $3.2 billion interstate pipeline project would transport natural gas from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Pittsylvania County. The source of the gas would be hydraulic fracturing extraction wells in the Appalachian Basin.
FERC will determine whether the project’s public benefits outweigh its potential adverse impacts. If the commission approves Mountain Valley’s application, the pipeline company will be able to use eminent domain to acquire rights-of-way, if necessary.
Rick Shingles, an organizer of Preserve Giles County, an anti-pipeline group, reacted Thursday to alternate 200. He said the route seems designed to avoid geologic features that many people, both scientists and laymen, have said are incompatible with a large-diameter buried pipeline transporting natural gas at high pressure.
“It appears alternative 200 is designed to avoid the most serious obstacles to the FERC awarding MVP a certificate of necessity and convenience,” Shingles said.
“This will change nothing in the organized opposition to the pipeline other than to rally even more citizens to oppose it,” he said. “With each alternative, the MVP alarms, awakens and mobilizes still greater numbers of protesters.”
This time, Mountain Valley Pipeline alerted county officials before approaching landowners to seek permission to survey their property.
County administrators Clay Goodman, Craig Meadows and Chris McKlarney — from Craig, Montgomery and Giles counties, respectively — declined to comment Thursday. Each said they will wait to hear from their boards of supervisors. Each board has previously expressed opposition to the pipeline, as has the board in Roanoke County.
The controversial pipeline also has garnered support. Proponents, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, have said that natural gas provides a cleaner alternative to coal for power generation and that domestic production enhances national security.
Bill Wolf helped organize Preserve Craig, an anti-pipeline group that has submitted reams of documents to FERC supporting the group’s stance that the Mountain Valley project’s adverse impacts far outnumber any potential benefits.
“Moving the pipeline route a few feet or even a few miles does not make a bad idea any better,” Wolf said.
He said the pipeline should not route through Craig County or elsewhere in the region’s steep, mountainous terrain.
“Erosion, sedimentation and devastating environmental, social and economic damage are guaranteed to occur here,” Wolf said.