Gas Pipelines Uproot People, Destroy Farmland & Forests, and are Dangerous

by Duane Nichols on June 15, 2016

"It brings me to tears!" Heidi Cochran

A Country’s Need for Natural Gas, A Woman’s Beloved Farmland, A Pipeline that Tore a Country Apart

From an Article by Brad Horn, Washington Post Magazine, Sunday, June 12, 2016
If it made it through the arduous approval process, Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline — 560 miles long from the hills of Harrison County, W.Va., to the red clay of Robeson County, N.C. — would carry natural gas to southeastern power plants that are phasing out coal. Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources are partners in the project. Construction would begin in late 2016, the operation coming online two years later. Richmond-based Dominion would construct it.

At 42 inches in diameter, the pipeline would be part of a new generation of American mega-pipelines built to transport our dizzying windfall of natural gas. At full pressure, it would move 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. It would be almost as large as American pipelines come.

There are four large natural gas pipelines underway in the Eastern United States, what some energy experts have described as a “natural gas race” to bring gas to the East Coast. Energy companies are being incentivized by Environmental Protection Agency regulations championed by the Obama administration called the Clean Power Plan . The plan would essentially regulate coal-fired power plants out of existence, replacing them with gas-powered facilities. The goal is a dramatic overhaul of America’s energy grid and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The pipeline’s champions say it will significantly reduce carbon emissions while creating jobs along its route. Detractors say the $5 billion project will lead to more methane emissions (themselves a highly potent greenhouse gas) from the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as fracking, violate private property rights and disrupt fragile ecosystems when it passes through some of the more intact wilderness of the southern Appalachians.

What isn’t argued is whether the United States needs a replacement for coal. Coal-fired power plants generate 33 percent of the nation’s electricity but 71 percent of our carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). This gives coal the distinction of being the nation’s single largest contributor to climate change.

“One out of every 15 tons of carbon dioxide emissions that goes into the atmosphere anywhere in the globe is from the United States power sector,” says Susan Tierney, a former assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Energy. “[That’s from] us plugging in our iPhone chargers. We’ve got to do that more cleanly, got to do it much more efficiently.”

Opponents wondered: Why not simply convert to a system powered by renewables?

Renewables can’t meet demand, says Tierney, now an adviser at Analysis Group, a consulting firm. To replace coal with wind, solar and geothermal infrastructure (which supply just 5.7 percent of the nation’s electricity, according to the EIA), “you have to put in a whole lot more resources, making it much more expensive to replace a coal plant.” One of her biggest concerns, Tierney says, is that “opposition to a natural gas plant will mean coal plants stick around longer.”

“Climate change is occurring,” she says, and decommissioning coal plants can’t wait.

Note:  See the 21 pictures in the Photo Gallery here.

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