New Natural Gas Pipeline Would Run Through The George Washington National Forest

CREDIT: Friends of Nelson County

Four U.S. energy companies announced Tuesday that they were joining together to build a 550-mile natural gas pipeline that, if approved, would run from West Virginia to North Carolina.

The newly-proposed, $4.5-$5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline would carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day, and if the pipeline gains swift approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the companies say it could be online as soon as late 2018. The pipeline would carry gas from West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania’s Utica and Marcellus shale basins.

The four companies — Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and AGL Resources — are still deciding upon the pipeline’s exact route, but the general route was released Tuesday. If approved, the pipeline would start in Harrison County in northern West Virginia, and would run southeast into Greensville County, Virginia, and then terminate in Robeson County, North Carolina. It would also include a 70-mile extension at the Virginia-North Carolina border, which would carry gas to the Hampton Roads region of coastal Virginia.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) supports the pipeline, saying that it would bring construction jobs and make Virginia more attractive to manufacturers.

“This is a game changer for manufacturing for us,” McAuliffe said.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) also heralded the pipeline proposal.

“For many years, we’ve worked hard to make the most of the Marcellus and Utica Shale developments in West Virginia,” Gov. Tomblin said. “We continue to be optimistic about the existing and future opportunities this industry brings to the Mountain State, and today’s announcement by Dominion has the potential to create good-paying jobs for our hard-working men and women.”

But not everyone is happy with the announcement of the pipeline proposal. Glen Besa, Director of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress that he’s most concerned about the fact that the pipeline’s proposed route takes it through the George Washington National Forest — as well as the Allegheny Mountains, Blue Ridge mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. McAullife opposed opening the George Washington National Forest to fracking during his campaign for Governor, but Besa is concerned that a natural gas pipeline running through the forest could renew the push for fracking in the forest.

“I’m extremely disappointed that the governor’s first energy initiative is a gas pipeline to move fracked gas,” he said. “We have been hopeful that this administration would bring a new focus to clean energy, energy efficiency, wind and solar.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center agreed, issuing a statement that called on McAullife to “keep his pledge to the citizens of the Commonwealth to protect the GW, a treasured natural resource that hosts more than a million visitors annually and anchors a vital, agriculture and tourism-based economy for the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding communities.”

Besa said that there is already “major opposition” to the pipeline in several Virginia counties. The Augusta County Alliance, a Virginia-based anti-pipeline group that formed when Dominion announced in June that it was working on plans for a new pipeline through Virginia, has been working against the pipeline for the last few months, as has Friends of Nelson.

“We, along with our partners in the counties along the route, intend to fight the pipeline until the project is dead,” Ernie Reed, Vice Chair of Friends of Nelson, said in a release. “The pipeline is not in the public interest.”

Besa said the Virginia Sierra Club plans to continue working with local citizens to oppose the pipeline.

“This is not a done deal by any measure,” Besa said.