Coalition forms in response to Dominion’s proposed pipeline

Organizations from West Virginia and Virginia are coming together to share information and better understand Dominion Resources’ Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, announced last week.

The Allegheny Blue Ridge Coalition is made up of 22 organizations that have various views and concerns about the proposed $5 billion, 550-mile pipeline project that starts in Harrison County, West Virginia, and flows southeast into Virginia and ends in North Carolina.

“They share one thing in common,” Lewis Freeman, steering committee chairman for the coalition, said of its 22 member groups. “A grave concern about the route proposed by Dominion because of problems on the route we feel would irreversibly affect the communities and natural resources and the safety of the pipeline itself.”

The coalition began to form about six weeks after Dominion announced plans for a pipeline in April.

“It became clear when several organizations came into a room to express concerns, and each organization had a bit of a different take on it, there was a need and a desire to continue communication among organizations,” Freeman said.

The proposed pipeline crosses rivers that provide drinking water, two national forests and several endangered species environments. The project had not applied for a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as of Tuesday.

Freeman hopes the coalition will provide some order and help organizations gather data and avoid duplication. The first thing the coalition will do is see what information its members are gathering and would they like to know more about.

Freeman said the regional alliance is home to a type of karst topography in Pocahontas County in West Virginia and Highland and Augusta counties in Virginia that’s more vulnerable and unstable than karst found in other areas of the country. Freeman lives about four miles from the West Virginia border, in Highland County.

Coalition members have attended county commission meetings in both states and have talked with officials from the Monongahela and George Washington national forests where the pipeline is set to go through.

“The forest service is one of the few agencies that has some say in this,” Freeman said.

The coalition hopes to convey the information it gathers to the public. West Virginia coalition members include Friends of Black Water, Greenbrier River Watershed Association, West Virginia Environmental Council, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

“People went to those [commission meetings] searching for answers but they came away with more questions than answers,” Freeman said. “All of this may seem a bit mundane, but it’s all relevant.”

For more information on the coalition, visit www.abralliance.org.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5113 or follow @caitlincookWV on Twitter.

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