Pipeline meeting draws project supporters, opponents

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hosted their first of five public meetings Monday evening to discuss water quality certifications for one of two proposed natural gas pipelines.

Protesters at a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality public meeting to discuss water quality certifications for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, held at JMU on August 7

More than 130 people signed up to share their comments to the DEQ.

Aaron Gulbarnsen was one of those who came out in support of the pipeline, believing its a win-win situation.

"It's not going to be bad for the animals. It's not going to be bad for the environment and anything that'll create jobs long term, short term is great and anything that lowers the cost of energy is great," said Gulbarnsen.

In addition to regulations Dominion Energy must already follow during construction, the tool is designed to "provide reasonable assurance that water quality standards are maintained" in streams in wetlands, according to the DEQ.

Before the meeting, both supporters and opponents of the 600-mile underground pipeline stood outside the Festival Conference & Student Center at James Madison University where the meeting was held.

Those against the project, such as Richard Averitt, easily outnumbered those holding signs to show their support.

"If DEQ follows it's specific mandate to make sure that none of the streams, wetlands and waterways in this state are negatively impacted, they can not approve this pipeline," Averitt said. "We need to make sure that they understand that the public will hold them accountable."

An environmental assessment of the pipeline released in July by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated most adverse environmental impacts pipeline construction would cause could be reduced to insignificant levels.

Additional public hearings on water quality certifications will be held held across the state before the end of the comment period.