I have seen countless letters to various publications concerning utility plans for expansions of service, especially electric or gas. They always contain mostly unsubstantiated, subjective statements in opposition from environmentalists, such as those from Glen Besa of the Sierra Club. In “Lines Drawn," for instance, “because of well leaks and the potential for the release of potent methane, natural gas use has dubious advantages over coal.” Name one from the thousands of miles of pipeline within Virginia, Mr. Besa.
Potentially, there can be another Hurricane Camille to denude another big hunk of Nelson County. “Potent” — how, by the way? Content? Toxicity? “Dubious advantages over coal?” Besa obviously doesn’t really understand either coal or gas transmission nor operation. For instance, coal can’t be compressed to allow for the efficiency for extra storage of off-peak gas to cover seasonal variations. Coal has to be hauled in trucks or trains, not in pipes and stored in huge piles. Gas lines can be tapped at lesser pressure for distribution wherever demanded, while coal can’t without building new tracks, roads, bridges, etc. Burned natural gas produces much less carbon dioxide — that toxic gas that each human breathes each day — says the Environmental Protection Agency, than coal, and no ash.
Your reporter gets pretty subjective as well, such as “ambitious 550-mile Atlantic Coast pipeline.” This pipeline is to be built to satisfy customer demand, not the ambitious whims of boards of directors. The cost is simply more than one utility alone can bear. The charters for Dominion (in each state) specifically require that the utility satisfy customer demand as inexpensively and as harmlessly as possible. As for “threatened with eminent domain,” that’s only as an absolute last resort. All rights-of-way for such a project have to be purchased so that immediate access to the properties is secure.
As a retired 40-year employee of Dominion who helped deal with similar concerns of customers for both electric and gas transmission and distribution routings over those years, I can assure your readers that when “Dominion insists it will do its best to minimize impacts,” it means exactly what it says. Route changes are often very expensive, an expense ultimately to be borne by stockholders and customers. And then there are a few little government regulations (state, federal and local) that that have to be satisfied as well. This is no job for the uninitiated “greenies,” but only for well-prepared experts.
C.T. Lucy Jr.