RICHMOND, Va. – Opponents of the proposed Virginia route of a 550-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina have launched a campaign to enlist more allies in their fight.
The “All Pain, No Gain Campaign” delivered that message Sunday in paid media spots in central and western Virginia markets.
The campaign contends that everyone in Virginia and even Washington, D.C., has a stake in the ultimate path of the 42-inch Atlantic Coast Pipeline because it would carve up private property and scenic vistas and threaten water supplies.
The campaign wants the pipeline shifted to existing rights of way.
Dominion Resources is partnering with other utilities to build the $5 billion pipeline, which would cross the Blue Ridge Mountains to deliver gas from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Southeast.
In a statement issued Sunday, Dominion said it does consider rights of way for the pipeline where it can and the new campaign was using “scare tactics and misinformation.”
“Once built, it will be virtually invisible, the same as the 3,000 miles of natural gas pipelines already in the commonwealth,” Dominion said of the proposed pipeline.
Ground zero for pipeline opponents has been primarily in Augusta and Nelson counties. The campaign wants to make the case for others to join the fight, including the state’s congressional delegation.
A key element in their argument is the potential for contamination of headwaters for rivers that supply public drinking water to millions.
“If Washington, D.C., enjoys its drinking water, it’s because it’s getting it from Augusta County,” said Nancy Sorrells, a former supervisor in that county and a co-chairwoman of the campaign. Water that flows into the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac and the James rivers could also be contaminated by pipeline construction or a breach of the pipeline, she said.
“Even if you’re not on the route, you need to sit up and take notice,” Sorrells said.
Sorrells and co-chair Charlotte Rea said they are not opposed to energy development or the pipeline, but its route. They said it affects too many property owners, historic resources and scenic and environmentally sensitive locations, such as the porous karst terrain in Highland County.
Rea’s land in Nelson County is on the proposed path of the pipeline.
“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline threatens to decrease property values for impacted landowners and to decrease revenues for small business owners who rely on Nelson’s rural heritage and beauty being maintained,” Rea said in a statement. “Both would decrease County tax revenues and could result in increased taxes for all Nelson residents.”
Dominion said localities with natural gas pipelines would reap tax benefits.
“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline may become the single largest taxpayer in many counties, with estimates for Augusta and Nelson alone totaling $3.1 million a year,” the Dominion statement said.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has called the pipeline “a game changer.” His counterpart in West Virginia, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, also has endorsed the project.
Dominion has made an economic case for the pipeline. A study it commissioned concludes the pipeline will generate $377 million in annual energy savings through cheaper, abundant natural gas and stimulate business growth and job creation.
The pipeline and its path need approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.