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Community Voices

Impatient ‘neighbors’ are not out for our best interest

Regarding the Gas Pipeline being planned to connect existing pipelines in Pennsylvania, cross through Maryland near Hancock, go under the Potomac River and connect with Mountaineer Gas in Morgan County, it seems there are a lot more questions and concerns at this point than there are answers.

At a presentation in Hancock last month, the representatives from TransCanada, the company slated to build the connecting pipeline from existing gas pipelines in southern PA to the point in Morgan County where Mountaineer will take over, provided a lot of information about their plans. They stated that they do not yet have all the permits needed to go forward. But they expressed complete confidence that their trenching and drilling methods are minimally damaging to the environment. They said they would be trenching three feet deep across the land, and will drill under the river so that the pipeline will be 75 to 100 feet beneath the bottom of the Potomac. They stressed that the pipeline would not cause any damage to “recreation on the river.”

When asked about potential leaks, they stressed that this stretch of pipeline is “only 3.5 miles long.” They stated they now operate 56,100 miles of pipeline in North America and have an excellent record. When I asked them about the karst in our local geology, they said their engineers are studying that and referred me to their geologists in the room.

We are being given conflicting information about how desperately we need to have this pipeline. It feels like as citizens we are not being provided with facts. Some who support this pipeline are saying that Procter & Gamble needs this gas supply to complete their huge operation in the panhandle, but others say Procter & Gamble signed on before there were plans for this pipeline connector. Some say that many property owners in the path of the pipeline are accepting of the minimally disruptive digging and monitoring that will occur. Property owners that I have talked with state that with the pipeline only 3 feet underground they will not be able to drive their heavy farm equipment over it, and that the 75 foot right-of-way TransCanada proposes will not be adequate to accommodate all the trenching and boring equipment needed to build and install it.

We in the panhandle need more accurate information. How will boring through karst disrupt the layers under our land? How will gas leaks affect our water supplies, not only from the Potomac, but also wells, creeks and ponds, irrigation systems?

It is easy to imagine how the property owners along this proposed line feel about the invasion of their property, their livelihoods, their futures. But are the rest of us in the panhandle aware how this plan could affect us all, for better or for worse?

We need more facts and figures, and the truth about potential damages and hazards. We also need the truth about how desperately this 3.5 mile gas pipeline connector is needed.

Yes, we need a boost to our economy in West Virginia. But are we getting a rush job here? Do we want to start giving corporations the right to go on people’s property without their permission and seize it by eminent domain? Is anyone working on other, perhaps cleaner, sources of energy for the panhandle? Maybe we need to take a longer view and begin developing wind and solar energy. Perhaps not instead of this pipeline, but as soon as we can. So that the generations coming up will not have to deal with short sighted mistakes we might make for the benefit of a few impatient “neighbors,” such as TransCanada and Mountaineer.

‘We the people’ are alive and active in the Panhandle

March 8, I attended the West Virginia Congressional Reception in D.C. with a group from the Eastern Panhandle, who have been trying to get our representatives to hold town hall meetings in our area.

While there I mingled and spoke with people representing some of the companies as well as staff of the representatives themselves and several were surprised at all the dissension that had happened after the speakers gave their speeches and the questions started. I think that this event is usually a let’s pat each other on the back for all the great things happening in West Virginia type of gathering. Our group had decided that if they won’t come to us we would come to them and we did in numbers.

We even wore red shirts with bright letters on them spelling out “TOWN HALL?” that we uncovered at an appropriate moment as Senator Manchin was about to leave. We had decided to invite the senator to take a photo with us to show that we had appreciated his staying to speak with us. After all, the invitation said all the representatives would stay to mingle with all those who took the time to come. Shelly Moore Capito left five minutes after she spoke saying she had a “previous commitment.” Alex Mooney ran away after just a couple questions, and being loudly booed when he said he would do everything he could to repeal the ACA. This says to me that the insurance companies not the actual people who live in West Virginia are being listened to. He and Manchin both say that they do not want the regulations surrounding coal because of jobs and that coal is now cleaner then ever. That is a straight out lie supported by the coal industry while they are once again allowed to pollute our water. They say they care about the people and yet Mooney is trying to take away their health insurance.

Senator Manchin says he does not want to repeal the ACA but he often says what we want to hear and so time will tell. Senator Manchin is a good “politician” and likes us to think he’s really listening but he has one too many times sided with the GOP.

As suggested by him at a different time “Vote Me Out” if you don’t like how I’m doing and that might be exactly what we do if he doesn’t in some way get involved in the most important issue . … The pipeline that is trying to be built!!! He needs to take his constituents seriously and work to stop it and convince Craig Blair to drop legislation SB 245 allowing “trespassing.” We will not tolerant such miss use of power, which we all know is payed for by the gas and oil companies. I hope all those who attended the reception thinking it was business as usual were awakened to the fact that “we the people’ are alive and active!!

Stopping the Gas Pipeline Should be a Priority

Shenandoah Junction:

As a new resident of beautiful West Virginia I would like to share my experience from my home state of Pennsylvania, gas pipelines and fracking. There is a documentary that can educate you better than myself on fracking. It’s called “Gasland” written and directed by Josh Fox. Fracking has poisoned the water in more than one Pennsylvania town. Two families in Dimock, Pennsylvania, were awarded $4.2 million in damages because their water had been poisoned. They will never have clean water on their land. This fracked gas will be transported by a new gas pipeline that TransCanada and Mountaineer Gas propose to build. The proposed pipeline goes under the Potomac River, C&O canal, Sleepy Creek and Back Creek, through Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties. What if it leaks?

Almost weekly we see news reports of gas pipeline leaks and explosions. Think it can’t happen here? Berkeley Springs known for its pristine mountain spring water, not if we have a leak. Mountaineer Gas threatening farmers with eminent domain if they don’t provide a right-of-way. Sound like a good neighbor to you? And what amazes me is that according to testimony before the Public Service Commission (PSC) not one business had signed an agreement that they would buy the fracked natural gas. Not one. So why are our Berkeley County legislators creating bills to help move this project along? Why would they allow this land grab? If Mountaineer Gas stops building pipelines they have to start paying taxes. Sounds like a good idea for a cash strapped state. Don’t be like Pennsylvania with unusable land and water. Stop the Gas Pipeline.

 

Where is our Peace on Earth?

Dear Editor:

It is hard to believe that the land you own can be taken from you. Working the land to make it produce for future generations of family can be taken from your control. These people weren’t there when the family cleared the land, fertilized and planted it to produce crops. It takes blood, sweat and tears to make the land what it can be. If you ever fought with the briars and sticky bushes on rough terrain, to improve the land those things cause your fingers to bleed and tears in your eyes. This is our private property till some company wants it for themselves. Isn’t it convenient that a bill is suddenly brought to our attention? Per The Journal article “This bill would take steps to protect property owners and the private property of individuals,” but this is not the case.

It allows companies to have run of the land without landowner’s say. If you stay off our property, we don’t need any bills. What is meant by reimbursements for actual damages? As currently worded, the bill doesn’t specifically state what happens if a landowner objects. Blair’s bill is trying to legalize trespassing.

Many people say it doesn’t affect me so I am not concerned. If they pass this bill and take over our land, that is just the beginning. Maybe the next bill will affect the rights of your family. Pay attention for your life could be changed if you have anything the companies want.

As they confirmed, landowners would pay the taxes on the land of the right of way. We were told we will be liable for all damages. What happens to our insurance if they make a mistake? What do you know about the farm equipment weight? Large tractors and a combine are heavy. Some of our property would be land locked, meaning we couldn’t get to the back of our land to farm with equipment. Remember they will own that 50 feet forever, and they can put anything in the ground or on top of that ground forever. There goes our private property rights. Fight this bill SB245.

The people at the Hancock protest were not bused in from Baltimore and paid. It was people from Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties and all was peaceful.

What is going to happen to our piece of Earth?

Right to Trespass?

Dear Editor:

I’m writing in regard to our state senator, Craig Blair, sponsoring the bill SB245 in the West Virginia Senate. This bill seems to be a response of natural gas companies to a situation they find themselves in with many area landowners. Landowners, that is, who are not interested in selling parts of their land to the gas company, Mountaineer Gas, for the purpose of building a gas pipeline through that land. For this reason, these property owners also are not interested in allowing the gas company to go on their property to survey for the proposed pipeline.

Senate Bill 245, the “Right to Trespass” bill, would allow natural gas companies to go on people’s property without their permission. They would only need to have asked for your permission. If you refuse to grant permission for them to come on your property, they then only need to inform you that they intend to do so anyway, with 15 days notice, and they can. And there is nothing you will be able to do to stop them if this bill passes.

The bill states, “Any entry authorized by and in compliance with this section is neither a trepass nor a taking. Such entries shall be considered a minimal intrusion.” “Minimal Intrusion?” They can come onto your property and drive through hayfields and grazing areas or woods with whatever vehicle they like. You won’t be able to stop them.

In the struggle over whether pipelines will ultimately be built, the gas companies have, by means of our state senator, Craig Blair, put forward a bill that helps them beat the landowners down. It takes away the homeowner’s right to say to the gas company, “You’re trespassing, get out of here. This is my land.”

Local people have good reasons for opposing this pipeline. Landowners don’t want their land divided by the pipeline path. Pipelines also often leak and contaminate well water. They can explode, too.

In proposing this bill, with its outrageous violation of citizen’s basic right to control their land, our state senator Blair does our community a huge disservice. To put it bluntly, he sells us out. If you agree with me, contact his office and let him know how you feel about him sponsoring SB245. The bill is currently in the Judiciary Committee, so citizens can also inform senator Charles Trump about their view of SB245.

No Pipe Dream Here

Dear Editor:

It’s a fact that people don’t take hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, serious enough until it’s too late. Fracking can’t be done safely and must be banned everywhere. The big gas companies’ agenda is simple — destroy the entire world for their own profit.

Don’t ask mighty Joe Manchin, our non-environmental, natural gas industry puppet to help — he’s already been bought and sold and doesn’t care about West Virginia. He’ll tell you how much he loves West Virginia, and then support everything that threatens to destroy it.

After secret Bush administration meetings, brainchild Dick Cheney, issued a wavier of the “Safe Drinking Water Act” for fracking gas companies, known as the “Halliburton Waiver” — nice guy, issues a waiver to ruin America. Now, the Mountaineer Gas Pipeline is knocking on our doors. Like the process of fracking, anytime you have a high pressure gas transmission pipeline installed, there is a dangerous rish to everyone’s homes, farms, water and lives. And like John C. Webster said in his last letter “for what?” Answer — to supply a company like Procter & Gamble with fracked gas.

What do you get out of it? — Nothing! What can you lose? — Everything! Is it worth it?

The construction of these pipelines would involve heavy and dangerous truck traffic, clear cutting our woods, destroying valuable farmland and also, the dangerous process of tunneling under our famous waterways, both canals and rivers.

Without the pipeline, we live in peace. With the pipeline, you inherit fear. It’s like living near a dam that wasn’t there before. They build it and it seems safe and all of a sudden, an accident happens and everything is lost.

If we don’t look at the consequences involved with the installation of a high pressure pipeline, it shows we need to try harder to stop this threat. Almost Heaven could become something we just remember, instead of something we take for granted.

Don’t let the Mountaineer Gas pipe dream become Morgan County’s nightmare. Stop the pipe dream now.

Say No to the Pipeline

Dear Editor:

John Webster gives a reminder that our voices were heard several years ago when our reps tried to ram “zoning” down our throats just like now when they are trying to ram “fracking” and a “natural gas pipeline” down our throats.

It isn’t just what we read about the damage and destruction fracking leaves behind but by first hand information from people who have confirmed it from their own experience. Their lives are forever changed. This is coming right from the horse’s mouth and not from the mouths of the reps from Mountaineer Gas who would convince you that all would be well.

People tell us that precious land has been destroyed by gas line explosions, lives of loved ones lost, pure water in their area is poisioned along with the water in their wells. These are some of the things that can surely be expected to happen. Years ago when solicitors came around trying to get people to sign up to get their property tested for either natural gas or oil they admitted, “Yes, there could be explosions.”

I was surprised at their honesty and just that alone made up my mind not to sign.

Now on top of all this throw in the idea of “eminent domain.” Who of us will not put up the fight of our lives to stop anyone who might think they can claim our property for public use. We didn’t buy it, love it and tend to it for years for public use. It belongs to us. I have to wonder why our local and state government would even entertain the idea of a pipeline through Morgan County when no good can come of it.

Find a few mintues today or very soon to write to your local and state leaders and tell them of your objections. We must act quickly because it looks like it’s almost a “done deal.”

Let them know that the next time they are looking for your vote, you’ll remember whether or not they considered what was good for us.

Who are They Kidding?

Dear Editor:

The people involved with the TransCanada/Mountaineer Gas pipeline project in Maryland and West Virginia have pulled out all the stops to misinform and use madeto order legislation to force Morgan County to accept it through threats, mis-prints, “alternate facts,” and probable use of eminent domain for private gain.

Perhaps I missed something along the way, but weren’t we originally told that the pipeline was needed to fuel the new Procter and Gamble plant in Berkeley County? We were then told that Berkeley County was already served by a pipeline from Virginia, but more gas was needed to serve Jefferson County, as well. Now, The Morgan Messenger reports that the pipeline is primarily for commercial and industrial clients in Morgan County. Huh?

And then there was the “open house” with TransCanada in Hancock, attended by many dozens from Morgan County and other Eastern Panhandle locations. Apparently, TransCanada thought that canapes, candy and (for some inexplicable reason) earbuds would make their pitch palatable to the people. Who do they think they are, and who do they think they are kidding? There just isn’t enough P&G lipstick to make this stinky pig-project pretty.