Atlantic Coast Pipeline opponents protest expo

Students from William & Mary protested the Atlantic Coast Pipeline expo Tuesday at the Chesapeake Convention Center (Mariah Pohl)
Students from William & Mary protested the Atlantic Coast Pipeline expo Tuesday at the Chesapeake Convention Center. (Mariah Pohl)

South Dakota is not the only state with a controversial pipeline. Virginia could begin construction on its own gas pipeline as soon as 2017, but some local opponents won’t go down without a fight.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been designed to transport natural gas from some of the largest suppliers in the world – the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations located across West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The proposed 600-mile pipeline route would begin in Harrison County, West Virginia, and end in Robeson County, North Carolina, with a route extension through Chesapeake.

The pipeline is currently two years into a three-year approval process through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

An expo was held Tuesday at the Chesapeake Convention Center by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP) to provide information about the project and scout a local workforce to assist with its construction.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina. (Mariah Pohl)
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina. (Mariah Pohl)

The event was attended by contracting companies, union representatives, and prospective employees who were greeted on their way to the event by about a dozen pipeline protestors from the Sierra Club and members of the Student Environmental Action Coalition at the College of William & Mary.

“They are arrogantly having this expo to hire subcontractors for a pipeline that hasn’t even been approved, but the dinosaur days of fossil fuel are gone,” Sierra Club organizer Jeff Staples said. “We are here to stop this thing from being built. We need to train and act for the future with green energy.”

Staples said he would prefer to see investments into safer and more sustainable energy sources that would decrease Virginia’s carbon footprint, such as wind and solar energy.

Andrew Bermack, vice president of pipeline business development at Michels Corporation, says natural gas energy is one of the cleanest fossil fuel options.

“Natural gas is extremely clean burning as compared to other energy sources,” he said. “When people use natural gas to turn on their stoves or heat their homes they kind of take that for granted.”

Bermack’s company is one of four that joined forces to create Spring Ridge Constructors LLC, the contracting company selected to spearhead the construction of the proposed pipeline. Michels Corporation is joined by Price Gregory International, Inc., Rockford Corporation, and U.S. Pipeline, Inc.

“Many people don’t understand that a pipeline is by far the safest mode of natural gas transport,” said Bermack. “It’s buried five feet below the ground, tested, and protected by redundant safety measures. The alternative to a pipeline is transportation by truck or rail.”

If approved, the constructed pipeline would bring energy and valuable property tax revenue to the region for more than a century, said Carsten von Borstel of Rockford Corporation.

“The taxes per year per county are phenomenal for the next 100 years,” he said. “It pays every single year for that pipeline to be there. It will keep giving.”

According to ACP, the capital expenditure during the construction phase of the project will generate $4.2 million annually in total tax revenue paid to local governments along the pipeline route. Ongoing operation of the pipeline is expected to total $28 million annually.

In addition to tax revenue, ACP anticipates the creation of 17,240 jobs for the construction of the pipeline.

Mike LaBorde, a union representative from the Teamsters National Pipeline Labor Management Cooperation Trust, said businesses can look forward to boosted economic activity from pipeline employees.

“Pipeline crews contribute to the economy by visiting restaurants, getting haircuts, going to the movies, and spending their money in in their off-time,” he said. “Local businesses love it.”

If all goes as planned, the pipeline will be ready for use by 2019, but Staples said he and other opponents will be out in full force until then.

“We have people power and these protests cost us nothing but our time and initiative,” he said. “This is irreplaceable in our struggle.”

Pohl may be reached at mariah@localvoicemedia.com

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