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Marty Chase: Pipelines in national parks not the best idea

By By Marty Chase

Our national Parks have been widely praised as America’s best idea.

That being the case, pending proposals to build as many as 10 natural gas pipelines through some of our National Parks and National Forests in the eastern U.S. has to rank as one of the worst ideas ever, as the environmental group Friends of Blackwater has noted.

Of all the zany ideas floating around Capitol Hill, this power grab by the Big Energy barons should be near the top of the list. Their “pipe dream” of building pipelines criss-crossing many of West Virginia’s most scenic areas is absurd on every level.

Ripping up parts of the Monongahela and George Washington Forests. the Appalachian Trail and hiking paths to accommodate natural gas pipelines should be a total non-starter.

With the House Natural resource Committee approving HR 2295, which orders the Interior Secretary to establish 10 new pipeline “corridors” in eastern states and then exempting those corridors from the strict requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, is an outrage.

If that’s not bad enough, Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project initially planned to ram their pipeline through 22 miles of the Monongahela National Forest, a direct threat to the red spruce northern hardwood ecosystem. That audacious proposal now has been modified somewhat with a new option which would run the pipeline through about five miles of that forest. But it still puts several endangered species, including the Cheat Mountain salamander, the northern flying squirrel, rare mussels, eagles and other species at risk.

From an environmental standpoint, the proposed pipelines would be a complete disaster. Those who shrug off the impact on endangered species in Appalachia should read the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Sixth Extinction,” by Elizabeth Kolbert. That helps one comprehend just how important it is.

If proponents have their way, the build-out on the pipeline boondoggle will be carried out with little or no environmental oversight. The pipeline companies are grabbing land by eminent domain and running roughshod over the rights of land owners. There are now seven separate pipelines on the drawing boards in West Virginia alone.

With gas and oil prices in the Dumpster, these projects may no longer be economically feasible. The highly-touted Marcellus Shale fracking jobs boom, a reality just a year ago, is fading fast. In a nutshell, it won’t be the huge jobs creator envisioned by its backers.

Moreover, Virginia politicians, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Tim Kaine, are talking out of both sides of their mouths on this issue. Gov. McAuliffe doesn’t even seem to realize that much of the gas being shipped through the pipelines would come from nearby West Virginia, “not somewhere out west” like North Dakota.

Note also that McAuliffe vigorously opposes any fracking in his pristine Old Dominion. Not-in-my-backyard, he insists. Of course, we don’t mind if West Virginia tears up its national forests so we can get the gas shipped to our marvelous ports in the Tidewater region for export overseas.

Stepping back, one wonders if anyone is connecting the dots on this looming fiasco. Certainly the politicians aren’t giving it any kind of serious scrutiny, happy to march to Big Energy’s tune. Tea Party favorite Rep. Alex Mooney seems to care less about preserving the environment in the Monongahela National Forest which sits in his district.

All three congressional representatives in the House back the energy barons to the hilt. Ditto for Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.

In fact, the entire delegation appears to be entirely in the pocket of the fat cats who fund their campaigns — Wall Street financiers and energy titans.

A recent front-page New York Times story reported that 158 super-wealthy families contribute more than half of the first phase of the spending going into the 2016 presidential campaigns. More than half of these families have direct ties to Wall Street and finance, or Big Energy.

It would be a huge mistake to assume that any of these folks have West Virginia’s best interests at heart.

Marty Chase, of Elkins, is a retired Gazette business editor.

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