An unwelcome web of gas infrastructure

Whenever I see a spiderweb in the woods, I’m awestruck by the careful, diligent work it took and the ability of a small insect to adjust its design to the surrounding trees or bushes. Unfortunately, the opposite is true when it comes to the expanding web of gas pipelines and compressor stations being planned nationwide, which would take years to build, affect large areas, and have impacts that last for decades. 

No wonder communities in the path of development refuse to be ensnared.

Last week in Buckingham County, Virginia, I had the chance to see local groups in action, as we spread the message that health, economic, property, and environmental impacts from the proposed 550-mile long Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project cannot be ignored. A few days later (but following months of hard work by residents), the County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution requesting that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) delay any approvals of the project for one year while such considerations are studied. 

Local officials should make this same demand in West Virginia, where residents continue to battle, with growing support from health officials, the 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, as well as a section of the ACP. Both projects would cut across rural areas and properties replete with forests, streams, and springs—as well as the Jefferson and George Washington National Forests. 

Further to the north, effective organizing has resulted in over 50 local resolutions by New York and New Jersey towns opposing the Pilgrim Pipeline. Concern has mounted rapidly over the health, safety, property, and environmental effects of a pipeline carrying crude oil for 180 miles through both densely populated and natural areas.

Yesterday, impacted residents and health professionals gathered in Albany, NY to urge the Governor and Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health to evaluate the impacts of the extensive build-out of gas facilities underway statewide. In effect, they’re asking that the agencies apply the same approach used to prohibit shale gas extraction to the extensive build-out of pipelines, compressor stations, and other facilities used to store, process, and transport shale gas.

These and similar demands in many other places—from North Carolina to Massachusetts and Ohio to New Mexico—are based on the specific routes, equipment, and impacts of each project. Nonetheless, they have a lot in common and residents across the US often ask companies, state regulators, and FERC for the same things: 

Don’t allow the gas and oil industry to cause more air pollution or damage more land. Be transparent about the location, scope, and plans of each project. Respect the rights of landowners to say no to pipeline surveys and construction. Comprehensively consider the long-term health and environmental consequences of thousands of miles of new pipelines, dozens of new compressor and metering stations, and countless other pieces of equipment. 

The FERC Chairman recently noted that, “Pipelines are facing unprecedented opposition from local and national groups…We have a situation here.” That’s exactly right—communities know how much is at stake, and won't stop making sure that decisionmakers do, too.