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Four Pipelines Would Cross National Forests, Opponents Want Consolidation

Opponents are calling for a comprehensive plan to reduce the impact of four huge proposed natural gas pipelines on national forest land and the endangered Cow Knob salamander. Credit: Steve David Johnson
Opponents are calling for a comprehensive plan to reduce the impact of four huge proposed natural gas pipelines on national forest land and the endangered Cow Knob salamander. Credit: Steve David Johnson
September 28, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. – Four natural gas pipelines proposed for Virginia and West Virginia would cross national forest land, raising concerns about the environmental impact.

Opponents say the competing pipeline companies are racing to lock in eastern markets.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, one pipeline would likely put endangered salamanders at risk.

Rick Webb, a coordinator of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, says people need to step back and take a broader look.

"The question is, do we need all of these pipelines?” he asks. “And can we not take a more rational approach to making decisions about them?"

The pipelines would cost billions of dollars and would run for hundreds of miles.

Industry officials say the pipelines are essential to break a bottleneck in bringing the gas to market. The companies say the pipelines would mean lower prices, thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in added tax revenue.

Energy companies have applied to build more than twice as many miles of pipeline this year than last.

Webb says federal regulators should require what's known as a programmatic or regional environmental impact statement. He says that would mean writing a coherent plan, rather than each company pushing to build as fast as they can.

He adds the energy industry might be able to use fewer pipelines, put several in the same right-of-way or use an existing right-of-way. He says that makes sense because the terrain is especially steep, and vulnerable.

"The Appalachian Connector, which has been proposed,” he states. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and the WB Xpress.

“And all of these would cross the steepest mountains in the region. Straight up one mountain and down the other."

U.S. Sen.Tim Kaine has suggested consolidation, as have the EPA and the Roanoke Times.

A group of nearly 30 environmental and community groups has written to the Forest Service, arguing that a regional environmental impact statement would help protect forestland.

Webb says the shear magnitude of the pipelines is part of the issue.

"At least four that are approximately 42 inches in diameter,” he points out. “And any one of these would be the largest pipeline ever built in this region."


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA