In the Pipeline’s Path

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one among several projects threatening rural Appalachian landscapes and communities.

| Winter 2016

  • The people of Appalachia, well accustomed to exploitation from moneyed outside corporations, are rallying against the loss of land, home values, and safety posed by the pipeline proposal.
    Photo by John Hayes/Flickr
  • This absolute power is seen as government overreach at the behest of private business—overreach that robs landowners of the safe and secure enjoyment of their property, and sometimes of their very way of life.
    Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr
  • FERC’s review of the project is on- going, and it has yet to complete an Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline.
    Photo by Mark/Flickr

Bill and Lynn Limpert searched for years for a place to retire in the country. In April 2009, the couple from Frederick County, Maryland, finally settled on a small montane property near the village of Bolar in Virginia’s Bath County. Mountainous, thickly forested, with a population of just over 4,600, Bath County borders West Virginia in the Allegheny Mountains, and is known for its small farms, scenic beauty, and great stretches of intact forest. It also lies along the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a 600-mile-long behemoth that would carry some 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas through their community every day.

The Limperts are worried. “We live in the pipeline’s ‘blast zone,’ about 675 feet from the ACP itself,” Bill Limpert told me as we relaxed on his front porch in the afternoon sun, gazing northward over miles of gently undulating forest, the only sounds a slight breeze through the oaks and occasional birdsong.

Though they still seem stunned by how the pipeline could disrupt their quiet life, the Limperts aren’t taking the news lying down. “We first learned about the [pipeline] coming through our property on February 12 of this year,” Bill Limpert said. “Since then I have put in an average of four hours a day working to stop it. That’s about 600 hours so far. I’ve never been so angry or so stressed for so long. Some nights I’m getting up in the middle of the night to work on stopping the pipeline.”

Bill Limpert isn’t alone. The people of Appalachia, well accustomed to exploitation from moneyed outside corporations, are rallying against the loss of land, home values, and safety posed by the pipeline proposal. In fact, the pipeline has united communities across political and social spectra, in a fierce defiance against the project and a common goal to defeat its proponent, Dominion Resources.

The furor over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline may have abated since President Obama vetoed the project last November, saying that the transborder infrastructure project “would not serve the national interest of the United States.” But while Keystone has certainly been the most well-recognized fossil-fuel transmission project, many other potentially disastrous pipelines are now under consideration, yet are receiving far less public scrutiny.

The bulk of these pending pipelines would transport natural gas. Domestic natural gas production reached a record high in 2015, and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that US production will increase 55 percent by 2040. Much of this increase has and will come from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in the Appalachian Basin, particularly in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. According to the EIA, West Virginia alone—the eighth-largest natural gas-producing state in the nation—had more than 28 trillion cubic feet in gas reserves in 2014. Production in the Appalachian Basin has increased thirteen-fold since 2009, and is projected to double again by the early 2030s, at which point the region could provide 50 percent of all US gas production.

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