Gas Pipeline Proposal Raises Concerns in Roanoke County

The latest map provided by the Mountain Valley Pipeline project shows the route avoiding Floyd County and  traversing both Roanoke and Franklin Counties.
The latest map provided by the Mountain Valley Pipeline project shows the route avoiding Floyd County and traversing both Roanoke and Franklin Counties.

Its apparent that local residents for the most part do not seem receptive to the thought of a natural gas pipeline coming through their property, whether they live in Roanoke County’s Bent Mountain area or in neighboring Floyd County.

Because it’s under the domain of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) local governments really don’t have much to say on the matter in the end – if it is approved by the feds.

If landowners in the path of the pipeline being proposed by the EQT Corporation (for Mountain Valley Pipeline) can’t agree on a price to compensate them for a right of way being built it can be taken by eminent domain, with a fair market price then being determined.

The fact that the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors has little control over the issue hasn’t stopped some local residents from appearing at board meetings or at a community meeting on Bent Mountain (on Oct. 21) to express their opposition.

Some are concerned about damage to their properties caused by a 150 foot right of way swath the pipeline construction crews may need. Others are concerned about visual damage to view sheds and many are worried that if the natural gas pipeline should ever leak – or explode – it could damage the mountaintop aquifer that replenishes the valley’s water supply.

EQT originally had looked at a natural gas pipeline route through Floyd County, where there was also widespread opposition, but then opted for a route through the Bent Mountain area in Roanoke County. At a recent Board of Supervisors meeting EQT officials insisted that community opposition was not what drove them away from Floyd County – it was that a Roanoke County route was logistically more feasible.

There are several natural gas pipelines being proposed to run through Virginia – and they have support from the top. Governor Terry McAuliffe said, in Roanoke recently during a visit, that he supports their construction as something that helps the economy and the environment, by delivering a cleaner form of energy.

“I wouldn’t want this pipeline on land of my own or have to see my neighbors deal with [these] issues,” said a speaker during the public comments section at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting. “My wish is that EQT could feel the same about their neighbors as I do.”

Ann Rogers felt much the same way: “Roanoke County landowners are being asked to buy into this project without any environmental studies on the pipeline’s impact to the county’s water supply.” Rogers said water held in the Blue Ridge Plateau could be disturbed by blasting that will be needed to dislodge rock for the pipeline.

One outcome said Rogers, is devalued land that would have a “negative impact” on county property tax revenues due to lower assessments. She urged the county to contact Floyd officials that worked with Virginia Tech on studying the negative impact a natural gas pipeline could have if built.

Architect and Poor Mountain resident Eldon Karr told the Board of Supervisors he was “shocked” to see that his property was in the path of the pipeline – saying he had not received any notice “This will have a dramatic impact on the Bent Mountain Plateau…we’re talking about major disruptions of tier 3 streams. I ask again for some transparency [about the route].”

Roanoke County may not have much to say about the proposed route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline but that clearly isn’t stopping residents from expressing their concerns and fears about the natural gas pipeline being proposed for Bent Mountain as it makes its way towards coastal Virginia and North Carolina.

– Gene Marrano