Recently, a pair of Virginia Beach State Senators, Frank Wagner, 7th District and Bill DeSteph, 8th District, painted a very rosy picture of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Their pipeline looks very little like the pipeline that will truly exist.
The real pipeline would travel more than 500 hundred miles from the fracking fields of West Virginia through the heart of the Commonwealth and end in North Carolina, with an extension in Chesapeake.
The real pipeline will cut through thousands of family farms, numerous streams and sensitive ecological areas. It will impact several of Virginia’s treasured spaces including the Monongahela and George Washington National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and even the Appalachian Trail. It will carry and quite likely leak climate disrupting fracked gas.
The Senators’ have lauded the job creation possibilities that would come with the creation of a “reliable and affordable supply” of fracked gas. There is more to this than can be casually explained by legislators who take large amounts of money from the utility. This pipeline, that will disrupt the entire state, is simply unnecessary. The smart alternatives to this pipeline have been ignored in favor of Dominion’s profits.
The gas supply that the Utility and the Senators say we are in such need of can be obtained without the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Just a couple of weeks ago a study confirmed that with already planned expansions and modifications, the supply capacity of existing pipelines in the Virginia-Carolina region is more than sufficient to meet expected future peak demand. Columbia Gas has an existing pipeline that serves much of Virginia. It also is connected to a Virginia Natural Gas Pipeline that runs to Chesapeake. The capacity of this pipeline is to be enlarged and will be almost equal to the amount of new gas the ACP would bring.
Hooking up to this pipeline would require only 3 miles of new pipeline and some larger pipes in some of the existing right of ways, much less than the 400 miles of new intrusion that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would require.
The power plants in Brunswick and Greensville already are connected to a Transco pipeline and would not require any further connections. Supplying the gas needs of Hampton Roads by this method would result in a win for those landowners who want to maintain their lifestyles, for our public lands and natural areas and for Dominion rate-payers who would not have to bear the cost of needless construction of a $5 billion pipeline.
Another alternative to our energy needs in Hampton Roads is one that is in sync with our efforts to address sea level rise, one that focuses on energy efficiency and clean energy. Infrastructure projects like pipelines lock us into using methane spewing fossil fuels for decades to come, and it’s crazy to be building more of this at a time when we must rapidly transition to clean energy. With seas rising ever higher in Hampton Roads the effects of this proposed pipeline could further alter the already bleak picture. The lowest estimates of greenhouse gas emissions for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are more than 5 times the annual carbon pollution from Dominion’s Chesterfield Power Station, the largest coal fired plant in Virginia, and equal to more than 80% of the total carbon pollution from all 177 stationary sources in the EPA’s 2014 inventory of GHG emissions in Virginia. When levels should be going down to fend off rising seas, they are actually pushing for a marked increase.
Additionally, the methane that is leaked by the wells and at pipeline transition points is 86x more powerful than CO2 in terms of trapping heat. This alone is something we cannot afford to let happen.
The availability of alternative, clean, renewable forms of energy has long been stymied by Dominion. Legislation, by recipients of Dominions gifts, has increased the natural longevity of fossil fuels here in Virginia. The recent fiasco around the aborted offshore wind project is evidence of that. Dominion lost a $40 million dollar grant by the Federal Government to help develop wind energy 25 miles off of our coast. When Dominion would not commit to building two test windmills by 2020, the Fed’s took the money off of the table. Interestingly enough, Deepwater Wind installed the first offshore wind turbines in the United States off of the coast of Rhode Island in August and those turbines will begin producing power next month.
With solar and wind power prices expected to decrease by half over the next 10 years, and fracked gas prices — predicted by Dominion — to go up 2 to 3 times by 2025, this pipeline would be an economic disaster. The cost of degraded property values and loss of income on those lands would more than offset the amount of tax revenue that the pipeline may bring.
Jobs to build the pipeline generally go to the already established pipeline companies and those that are generated would only be temporary. Investing in solar, wind, and energy efficiency could result in the creation of 9 times more jobs than fracked gas would create. This job growth could result in the revitalization of our shipyard industry and bring a much needed career change to those experiencing the decline of coal jobs and textiles jobs in Virginia.
I am a lifelong resident of Virginia and during my 55 years here I have seen changes that I never thought would come– social, political, technological and industrial. These have been society-altering changes that have all come during this historically short period of time. The true question around fracked gas in Virginia is “Are Virginians going to continue to lead the nation or will we let the greed of a giant corporate polluter hold us back?”