W.Va. residents speak out against proposed pipeline
BERKELEY SPRINGS — Armed with statistics, geological surveys and impassioned personal pleas, an estimated 100 residents presented their case to try to persuade the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection not to grant Mountaineer Gas a stormwater management permit to build a 23-mile natural gas line from Morgan County down into Martinsburg at a public hearing held at Berkeley Spring High School on Tuesday.
Thirty-two speakers offered comments during the roughly 105-minute meeting, citing possible pipeline leaks, water supply pollution, devalued property values and a potential threat to natural wildlife among other reasons for the WVDEP to turn down Mountaineer’s pipeline application.
Hailing from the Eastern Panhandle, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and central West Virginia, speakers touched on one central concern: the environmental impact — both personal and commercial — on area drinking water if the pipeline were to rupture and leak.
“People living in this area depend upon the Potomac River and karst (porous) area wells and springs for their drinking water, water for their livestock and agricultural irrigation, and for the purity of water for manufacturing, such as the newly established Procter & Gamble complex,” said Martinsburg resident Cam Trowbridge, former president of the Opequon Creek Project, one of several area grass roots environmental groups to attend the meeting.
Lee Baron, a self described “soil analyst,” who grows trees in Maryland, said the potential gas pipeline seepage into the local water supply “will compromise everything I am doing.”
Several speakers described Mountaineer’s permit application “insufficient” or “incomplete,” citing the lack of a “flood mitigation plan for karst (porous soil) areas.”
Neither Mountaineer officials nor local Eastern Panhandle legislators spoke at the meeting.
If granted a permit, Mountaineer Gas plans to construct a $30 million natural gas pipeline project to run from Berkeley Springs in Morgan County to Martinsburg in Berkeley County that would more than double its natural gas output in the area.
Construction of the 22. 5-mile pipeline — the first phase in a projected three-phase pipeline project — is scheduled to start in the first quarter this year and be completed by year end, or first quarter 2019, according to Mountaineer Gas senior vice president and chief administrative officer Moses Skaff during a project overview to the Berkeley County Development Authority on Aug. 9.
The second phase would expand the pipeline from Martinsburg down through Kearneysville to Charles Town. A third phase would extend a pipeline from Martinsburg west over to Route 34.
The third phase of the project would run a 29-mile line extension from Martinsburg through Jefferson County to Charles Town and Ranson, Middleway and Shepherdstown.
The West Virginia Public Service Commission has granted approval for the first phase of the pipeline project. Mountaineer must re-apply to the commission for approval for both phase two and three.