Letter: Clearing the air

Last month you published a front-page report on an interstate natural gas pipeline project that is being considered through Rappahannock County. Since then a number of landowners have been asked to consent to surveys of their property (and I know, because I’m one). Some misleading rumors have been circulating, too, and I’d like to deal with just four.

First, it’s not true that the pipeline people have the power to come on your land to survey it. Right now they are asking for your consent. At this point they are on a fishing expedition and of course it makes their job easier if we just roll over.

Second, it’s not true that there will be adequate compensation if the pipeline goes through. Instead, the pipeline companies like to pay only on the basis of the going rate for the land they actually use, and that’s not much if it’s a strip just 60 feet wide.

Third, it’s not true that it’s only the landowners who will be affected. There’s going to be a lot of heavy truck traffic and construction mud on our roads for a year or so, and the company uses helicopters to patrol the pipeline from the air on a regular basis.

Plus, every affected landowner along the pipeline, a 25-mile route from the top to the bottom of the county, will look at his or her devalued land and turn around to petition for a reduction in real estate taxes. (The loss would not be just the land taken — who would want to buy a home with a huge pipeline running through it, buried only five feet deep and which you can’t even plant trees over?) The county’s budget planning would be in jeopardy again as a result.

Fourth — and even the pipeline people have tried to head this one off — I’ve heard there’s a wonderful rumor going around that we’ll all get free gas when the pipeline goes in! This is a lovely thought but completely unrealistic. The pipeline would be a high­ pressure line and it would take a plant the size of the high school to bring that pressure down to household levels. And you would still need a network of half-inch pipes buried in the ground to distribute the gas. So, it’s not going to happen.

It’s clear to me, at least, that the pipeline company needs to be more forthcoming about what they want and why. In the meantime, I suggest that there’s no need to give any consent to anyone about anything.

Chris Jones

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