Upshur Commission pushing for pipeline work to resume

The Inter-Mountain photo by Amanda Hayes Mike Cozad, community liaison with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, addresses the Upshur County Commission.

BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Commission agreed to send a letter in support of getting construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline back on schedule at Thursday’s meeting.

Mike Cozad, community liaison for the ACP, said that a December 2018 stop work order issued by the Fourth Circuit of Appeals in Virginia had effectively shut down the pipeline which includes 23 miles through Upshur County.

The order was based on three things — U.S. Fish and Wildlife permit, a U.S. Park Service permit crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and a U.S. Forest Service permit for crossing two sections of National Forest (one in West Virginia and one in Virginia), according to Cozad.

“Based on the [judge’s] review of the information those agencies had done, she determined they hadn’t done their due diligence in granting the permits,” he said. “She basically in our opinion overreached and declared we can’t work on 600 miles of pipeline so the project is on full shut down at this time.

“We were granted permission to continue to work to put pipe in the ground that is out there right now, welded up and ready to go,” he said. “From a safety and environmental standpoint we are going to do some work to stabilize what is out there already and get that put in the ground. You will see some work over the next six to eight weeks.”

At its peak, there were 700 people working in Upshur County on the pipeline in 2018.

“We were down to less than a 100 and we will ramp up to a little over 200 to get this work done that we have to do,” he said. “After that, we just don’t know.”

During a previous shutdown, the ACP was permitted to work on all but a 100-mile stretch but that request was denied this time.

“We asked for a clarification before the court and we were hopeful we would get before the court and get them to narrow the scope of it,” he said. “That request was denied so now we won’t be in court until March which has all kinds of implications on getting trees down.”

“Where we are going from here is a good question right now and I don’t have a good answer for you unfortunately,” he said.

“This also means that your taxes you were going to get in, some of those are going to be delayed for sure,” he said. “Some of the contractors will not have all the equipment in the county for tax purposes.”

Cozad has been meeting with local property owners and business owners about how the shut down has affected them.

“All of them are hurting,” he said.

What may be the most poignant effect of the shutdown is the impact it is having on families, according to Cozad.

“We hired a lot of local workers here to work on this project,” he said. “They came in with the expectation they would work last year 2018 and again in 2019 and now that is in jeopardy. Their future is on hold right now.

“That is the impact it is having on your community. We personally feel that we need to bring this to a head and we need to get things moving again.”

Commissioner Terry Cutright moved to draft a letter of support which was seconded by commissioner Kristie Tenney and passed unanimously.

The commission conducted a bid opening for soil remediation services for the Upshur County Youth Camp Brownfields Cleanup Project. In a previous bid process, only one bid was received which was well over the grant funding allotted for the project.

This time six bids were received and five met the qualifications, according to assistant administrator Tabatha Perry.

Bids from Cardno, Enviro-Check, Mountaineer Welding and Construction, Enviro-Probe and Bear Contracting will be reviewed for a possible vote at the Jan. 24 meeting.

In other business, the commission reviewed correspondence from the West Virginia Development office regarding the recent inspection of facilities located at the Upshur County Recreation Park. County administrator Carrie Wallace said that ADA accessible playground equipment such as a swing needs to be purchased for the playground by the pavilions. Another change noted is to lower a urinal in the men’s restroom at the pool to be ADA-compliant. A sign also needs to be replaced.