Communication, and not Criticism, is Needed During Pipeline Debate

Opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline thrives and grows, thanks in part to scare tactics related to local issues. Now it has come to the point where an informational open house by Dominion, appropriately scheduled for the Augusta County Government Center, had to be moved elsewhere because the Augusta County Alliance said it would “rally” outside the event, and because of concern about the safety of Dominion officials attending the open house.

As local issues are driving most of the opposition to this pipeline, we need to be mindful of much larger issues, national and in fact historic, that favor the pipeline.

As American energy production dwindled in the mid-20th century, we depended more and more on sources in the Middle East. By the 1970s, those nations had sufficient power to restrict the flow of oil to us, creating long lines of autos at the gas pumps and raising the price of oil dramatically. As we responded by shipping more and more of our wealth to them, we eventually learned that part of our own wealth was supporting terrorist organizations.

American energy independence has long been seen as an obvious solution to this problem. But it seemed far beyond our reach until new technologies, including fracking, recently laid open vast new resources of oil and gas in this country. Energy independence now seems attainable within a few years.

Lack of pipelines to get the energy out, particularly from fields in North Dakota and West Virginia-Pennsylvania-Ohio, is a major deterrent to progress. Oil is being shipped by railroads, which have been found far less safe than pipelines. More gas is being “burned off” into the atmosphere than is being put to productive use.

All this suggests to me that the pipeline will be built, whether we want it or not. If so, we would be better off engaging Dominion with our questions, values, and expectations, rather than by attempting any blanket rejection of the pipeline.

Jim Burns

(This was published as a Letter to the Editor on September 14, 2014 by the Waynesboro, VA News-Virginian.)