After wavering on the issue, Republican candidate for Senate Nancy Dye announced Monday she stands against the Mountain Valley Pipeline and a controversial 2004 state surveying law.
Dye joins other local politicians — including Democratic incumbent Sen. John Edwards — in opposing the proposed natural gas line that could end up cutting through three of the four localities represented by the 21st District Virginia Senate seat.
Independent candidate Donald Caldwell has said while he doesn’t like the project, he feels certain it’ll get the federal approval needed to forge ahead.
He’s urged the region to advocate a backup plan to make the project more palatable by getting the pipeline built in existing public easements rather than taking private property.
In a written statement, Dye said while she was encouraged by the pipeline initially — hoping it would spur local economic development and drive down energy costs — she grew concerned as questions mounted about how the project would affect landowners.
Dye said earlier this month she had taken no position on the project and was waiting for more information to emerge.
In her statement Monday, she described herself as “heart-broken” by the recent news that the pipeline and its partners were suing several area landowners to get access to their property for surveying work.
She added she was particularly dismayed to read about one Franklin County business, Occanneechi Inc., that said it reached out to the pipeline company to discuss the initial surveying request but never got a response. The Boones Mill business is now among those being sued.
“My original hope — that Mountain Valley Pipeline would work with local property owners and find a way to resolve this in a mutually agreeable way — is now gone,” Dye said.
“After seeing what this group of property owners, along with a number of others affected in a similar way in Giles County over this past summer, have gone through — I can’t support the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and I won’t.”
If elected, Dye said she’d vote to repeal the “bully-tactics” allowed under the 2004 surveying law — a law she noted Edwards voted in favor of four times when it was working its way through the legislative process.
The statute — which Edwards now supports repealing and said should be trumped by the state’s 2012 steps to restrict eminent domain — allows pipeline companies to enter private property for surveying without permission, provided that certain notification requirements are met.
In a statement Monday, Edwards said he’s been fighting the pipeline for months and argued Dye needs to advance more detailed arguments to help make the region’s case with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the panel that is reviewing the project’s impact and will decide whether it moves forward.
“It is not enough to say she opposes the surveying process when she says nothing about the key environmental and safety issues involved in building a pipeline in our region,” he said. “Now is the time we should be stating clearly our positions about the environmental and safety issues being affected by the pipeline.”
Dye did not attend that event, citing scheduling conflicts, and her absence was criticized by both of her opponents.
Caldwell said Monday he was glad to hear Dye had settled on a position on the pipeline. His view remains unchanged, he said, and he continued to urge localities to pass resolutions calling for a state study of the existing easements idea.
“The state should be a leader on this issue,” he said, arguing using public thoroughfares could avert eminent domain disputes and allow the state to multi-task by making infrastructure upgrades in concert with the pipeline construction.
“We should be proactive and not let something be forced down our throats from the pipeline company’s perspective,” he said.
Caldwell also has proposed that pipelines be required to pay royalties to private property owners to further discourage the taking of private land.
Rick Shingles, coordinator of Preserve Giles, said Dye’s opposition to the project is a welcome development.
Candidates from both sides of the political spectrum in the 21st District Senate race and the 12th District House of Delegates race — which also encompasses Giles — now object to the pipeline, he said.
“That’s exactly what we wanted,” he said. “We wanted bipartisan agreement, which is the only way you can get things through the legislature.”
Shingles added he hoped all candidates will appear at upcoming events in Giles so voters can learn more about their positions.
Beyond opposing or supporting the pipeline, he said, Preserve Giles is interested in finding out how well candidates understand the issues entangled in the project and what they feel the state can do to combat not only the Mountain Valley Pipeline but other pipeline projects in the state.
“We’re trying to get beyond the symbolism,” Shingles said. “And that would be true of all the candidates.”