Protesters oppose Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Published 10:15 am Friday, January 22, 2016

By James Miessler and Brian Williams
Capital News Service 

A group of about 50 rallied Tuesday to oppose private contractors coming on their land surveying for proposed pipelines without consent. The group of protestors, composed of six separate organizations, demanded legislators repeal the Wagner Act, a statute which allows companies like Dominion to survey on the land of private citizens.

“The statute that we want repealed hands private property to for profit enterprises,” said Joanna Salidis, the president of Friends of Nelson County.

“I am here working to protect the property rights, rural heritage, economy and environment for all the citizens of Nelson County. Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline threatens all of those values.”

The House bill opposing the statute, HB 1118, is being spearheaded by Republican Del. Joseph R. Yost of Giles County, who says that even though citizen’s land is private property, the Wagner Act still grants natural gas companies access for surveying.

“If a natural gas company is interested in surveying your property, obviously they have to come and ask your permission,” said Yost. “You have the option of saying no to them, but then there’s a process in the section that we’re trying to repeal that allows them to do another notification process. They can then go through and eventually gain admission to your property to do the surveys. We’re trying to stop that.”

Legislative efforts to repeal the section aren’t a new thing, Yost explained.

“There was a similar piece of legislation, I believe by Emmett Hanger in Augusta County, last year,” Yost said. “I don’t know if it was a complete repeal but it did fail in the Senate. I revived his efforts in the House this year, and I believe Sen. John Edwards has an identical version of my bill this year.”

Even though the rally made clear that a number of citizens aren’t happy about the Wagner Act, the bill isn’t guaranteed to make it any further than it did last year. Its fate will become known fairly soon.

The protesters’ demands didn’t stop at the preservation of property rights as they questioned the economic benefit and environmental fallout of what comes along with the proposed pipelines.

“We think these are risky investments that leave the people of Virginia on the hook to pay for these pipelines — a $17 billion investment,” said Drew Gallagher, field organizer for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

“We need to be moving towards solar and wind. This would avoid the worst impact of climate change. Hampton Roads is second only to New Orleans in terms of vulnerability from sea level rise, and we are doing nothing about it.”

Residents of Buckingham County expressed concern regarding support systems for the proposed gas pipelines, mainly compressor stations. Residents believe these stations will cause environmental issues as well as disrupt their communities.

Compressor stations are used to thrust natural gas through the pipelines via pressure in continuous intervals. Buckingham County stretches over 550 sq. miles where compressor stations would be needed every 50 to 80 miles along the pipeline.

Just under 70 acres of land was purchased in Buckingham last year by the ACP. This land will be used for the first compressor station which raises environmental concern for many.

In an interview, Aaron Ruby, Dominion Energy’s media relations manager, addressed the protesters’ concerns.

“While this project has generated broad support across Virginia, we understand some folks in the community have concerns,” said Ruby. “Over the last 18 months, we’ve worked very hard to address those concerns by listening to the community and seeking their feedback on ways to improve the project. From the beginning, our goal has been to meet the urgent energy needs of public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina, while at the same time having a minimal impact on communities.”