State Water Board prepares to hear from both sides of pipeline debate

Published: Dec. 10, 2017 at 6:27 PM EST
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Supporters and opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are preparing to head to Richmond this week as the natural gas project inches closer to final approval.

On Monday and Tuesday, the State Water Control Board — a regulatory arm of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality — is set to hear comments from the public about the pipeline.

Members of the board are deciding whether to grant water certifications for the 600-mile underground pipeline, as they did last week for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit following the approval of that project.

The Virginia DEQ will summarize comments received and make a recommendation. The State Water Control Board will then decide whether to approve, deny or amend those recommendations.

Jennifer Lewis, the president of Friends of Augusta, has been a staunch opponent to the project and plans to travel to the state capital.

"Their sole job is to protect our water," Lewis said. "When they don't do that, it is completely in the hands of us citizens to stand up and say, 'we demand that they protect our water.'"

Dominion Energy maintains the project can be built safely,

"multiple, overlapping layers of protection" from federal and state regulators.

But Lewis is not convinced and urged the public to get involved.

"If you haven't been involved these past four years, that's okay," she said. "We will catch you up to speed."

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would originate in Harrison County, West Virginia, and extend to Chesapeake, Virginia, and Robeson County, North Carolina. The natural gas line would travel through land in Augusta and Nelson counties.

Dominion Energy has promoted the $5 billion project by stating it will generate more than 17,000 new jobs and save $377 million per year in energy cost savings.

In November, the U.S. Forest Service granted approval for the project, a month after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission signed off on it.