Senate candidate Nancy Dye said this week she takes no position on the contentious Mountain Valley Pipeline project.

"I really don’t have a stand on it right now, because we don’t know all the facts and I’m a very fact- and evidence-based person," she said.

"I want to make sure that property rights are protected and the environment and, most of all, that people have adequate time to comment on it."

Dye, a Republican seeking the 21st District Virginia Senate seat, said there are too many unknowns about the pipeline and its impact.

"We don't even know the proposed path at this point,” she said of the project, which is weighing possible routes. “I try not to make judgement on things I don’t have all the facts on yet."

The pipeline came up at a forum attended by five of the six Senate candidates hoping to represent parts of Roanoke County.

The event, organized by the Masons Cove Civic Club, was held Tuesday and attended by about 50 people.

Organizers mentioned the pipeline debate and asked what the candidates would do to protect private property rights if elected.

Sen. John Edwards, D-21st, reiterated his opposition to the pipeline.

"This is not going to help our region in terms of the environment," he said, referencing the area's karst topography, which is characterized by sinkholes, caves and waters vulnerable to contamination.

"I want you to know I stand full square against having a pipeline in our region."

While current law allows utility companies to invoke eminent domain to serve the public need, Edwards said that isn’t an unlimited authority and he felt there were opportunities to push back.

“If it's coming through your area and you don't want the pipeline, I think you can fight it. I really do,” he said, offering to put people in touch with attorneys who could help.

Don Caldwell, an independent running in the 21st District, said he doesn’t like the pipeline but realistically the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the body charged with making these decisions — is going to approve it.

“We better have a backup plan,” he said, outlining his proposal to study whether the pipeline can be laid in already existing easements along roads and other public routes.

He also urged local governments to launch a coordinated letter-writing campaign calling on Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who’s pro-pipeline, to study the possibility.

“For a man who has an answer for everything to say that he doesn't have any ability to affect this, that it's a federal problem and he can't do anything about it? I don’t accept that,” Caldwell said.

Dye steered clear of the pipeline issue in her forum response, noting the crux of the question presented was about the broader issue of protecting private property rights.

But in an interview afterward, she said she remained undecided about the project. She also said she had no position on two General Assembly proposals mentioned Tuesday.

One would expand public access to information about the pipeline, and another would repeal a controversial 2004 surveying law.

Petska is the political beat reporter for The Roanoke Times.

Alicia Petska covers what's happening in Roanoke County and the City of Salem.

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