Pipeline’s new path: Puts it in someone else’s backyard

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The Atlantic Coast Pipeline's compressor site proposed just six miles away from Yogaville will now have silencers that limit noise pollution.
Photo by Joe Sohm Visions of America/Newscom The Atlantic Coast Pipeline's compressor site proposed just six miles away from Yogaville will now have silencers that limit noise pollution. Photo by Joe Sohm Visions of America/Newscom

The newest proposed route for the 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, announced July 15, would avoid a pending historic district around Wingina in southern Nelson County, but cut through a state wildlife management area along the James River. On July 14, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commision requested that Dominion seek a route that avoids both, says Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle.

And though Dominion has now agreed to comply with this request from FERC, Norvelle says Dominion has previously looked at over 80 alternative pipeline routes, variations and adjustments.

No matter the final path, though, local landowners say if the pipeline must come through, they’d prefer it to be located along existing rights-of-way, which include high-voltage electric transmission towers, power lines, interstates or highways, and railroad lines.

Joanna Salidas, president of the pipeline-opposing nonprofit Friends of Nelson, says Dominion’s newest proposed route, the one which FERC has asked them to reconsider, doesn’t lessen the impact for the families in its path. In an e-mail, she writes, “If Dominion cared about property owners, historical resources, or the environment, they would use existing rights-of-way which have already been seriously compromised from their original state.”

Salidas says impacted families’ homes have been peaceful and private, and that Dominion’s project will force them to endure a construction zone that’s eight highway lanes wide and a pipeline that will permanently carry the risk of explosion.

Yogaville, a spiritual community in Buckingham County, is founded on the idea of peaceful living, and its residents have more to complain about than just the pipeline—right outside this community, the power company has proposed the location of a compression station, or “engine” that will power the interstate natural gas pipeline.

“Our religious practices are based on silence,” says Swami Sarvaananda, a Yogaville resident of 40 years who does not support the pipeline near Yogaville, or anywhere. With the pipeline potentially situated half a mile away from the community and the compressor not much further, she says she’s worried about the noise, the health of nearby water and a loss of revenue for the community, which hosts 10,000 visitors from around the world each year.

But it’s not all bad news for Nelson residents fighting the pipeline. The newest proposed route would spare some properties that were previously in the pipeline’s path. “The change [in route] takes into account the importance of the Nelson County culture and history,” writes Peter Agelasto, the chair of the board of trustees for the Rockfish Valley Foundation. “We are pleased to see the change even though it impacts other environmental concerns and retains the pipeline in Nelson County.”

Agelasto, who also supports the Atlantic Coast Pipeline joining an existing utility line, continues to assert that Nelson is no place for any pipeline.

Norvelle says Dominion prefers to colocate with existing rights-of-way where possible, and has announced a plan to do so in counties near Franklin, Virginia, but few existing rights-of-way can be fully shared for safety reasons. Colocating doesn’t mean fully sharing an existing right-of-way, he says, but rather putting the right-of-way for a pipeline adjacent to the existing right-of-way. If Dominion chooses to join an existing right-of-way near Franklin, Novelle says 12 percent of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be colocated.

“Colocating for a short distance, jumping off and then jumping on again, can affect as many property owners as if we don’t [colocate],” Norvelle writes in an e-mail. He says existing rights-of-way don’t often go in the direction a pipeline needs to go.

The specifics of FERC’s request for a new alternative route will be addressed either within the next 45 days or in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s final application in September.