The nicest thing we can say about natural gas is it’s not coal, the one thing nobody wants in their stockings at Christmas. (Note the obligatory tie to the holiday. Yes, it’s a stretch. Forgive us.)
More natural pipelines are being planned to cut through Prince William and Fauquier counties, and we think you should know about it. Too often, these kinds of projects fly under the radar. In fact, when we talked to Fauquier supervisors, at least one said he hadn’t known about the Virginia Natural Gas pipeline mentioned in our story this week (page 1).
The two pipeline projects discussed in the story both skirt a new state law designed to provide more state – but not local -- oversight, one pipeline was applied for before new safety regulations went into effect; the other uses a pipe too small to be included in the regulations.
For the last few years, the largest two pipeline projects affecting Virginia have garnered the most attention. They are the Atlantic Coast pipeline, a 550-mile project proposed by Dominion Energy and its partners and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 330-mile project.
Both are currently on hold amid legal challenges and neither are in our immediate backyards.
The same can’t be said for the Southeastern Trail expansion, which involves Williams gas company’s compressor station in Manassas and will cut through 7.7 miles of Prince William and Fauquier counties. The Transco expansion is also responsible in part for new Virginia Natural Gas pipelines, which will add another 9 miles of pipelines through our counties.
Both could impact more than two dozen streams; leaks from the pipelines are common. Explosions are possible too, like the 2008 explosion in Appomattox, Virginia. The explosion and resulting fires destroyed two homes, damaged several others and injured five people. Dozens of nearby residents were evacuated.
Some local and state officials have rightly asked for a more thorough state review of the effects of the pipelines on those waterways, which so far have not been approved.
We’re not experts on natural gas or pipelines, but we know this: pipeline expansions raise concerns because they are usually the result of fracking, a controversial strategy for extracting natural gas; because they pose risks to the areas they pass through; and because they signal the expanded use of fossil fuels at a time when we should be moving toward renewable energy in an effort to combat climate change.
Climate change is one of the most important issues of our time and one that transcends politics. We’ll continue to watch and report on how the expansion of fossil fuel affects our area, our state and our country, and we invite your feedback.