Atlantic Coast Pipeline is detrimental to the environment

Victoria Zawitkowski
Staff Columnlist

Illustration by Annette Allen.

I will not support the risk that the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline brings. The pipeline is far more detrimental than supporters think. It will carry natural gas to Virginia and a better environment and economy should come along with it. However, the natural gas pipeline will also bring new hazards to be wary of in our state.

Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources have partnered to push the approximately $5 billion Atlantic Coastal Pipeline project. The pipeline will run 550 miles and pass through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. It will bring 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas to North Carolina and Virginia each day. While the pipeline will only be as small as 42 inches in diameter in Virginia, it still draws huge concerns from local citizens and environmentalists alike.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe supports the pipeline. In a press conference announcing the project, he said it will bring cleaner air, thousands of jobs, economic development, state and local tax revenue and lower energy prices. Many are upset by his support because it goes against his initial platform during his campaign for governor.

While in interviews McAuliffe said the pipeline has nothing to do with fracking, the pipeline is in fact carrying fracked gas through our state.

The pipeline’s route takes it through the George Washington National Forest, Allegheny Mountains, Blue Ridge mountains, and the Shenandoah mountains. McAuliffe said he was against fracking in the George Washington National Forest during his campaign. Building a gas pipeline puts those environments at risk of fires from accidental explosions, deforestation and overall destruction. Fracking is becoming a popular alternative to fossil fuel energy. It is not without its own environmental issues. Over a 20-year period, shale gas as a greenhouse gas footprint has proven worse than coal or oil. According to an article written by Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea, the fracking process involves drilling wells as deep  as 10,000 feet below the surface, and then injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and other chemicals to break apart the shale rocks and release natural gas.

Many of the known fracking additives are toxic, and other ingredients are kept secret. While there isn’t overwhelming evidence of pollution by these chemicals, it does happen. Blowouts, surface spills and improper disposal of these chemicals have all resulted in contaminated drinking water.

The real concern about fracking is methane. One study found that 75 percent of water wells within a kilometre of the Marcellus shale fracking site in Pennsylvania, were polluted by methane, a greenhouse gas that has proven to be harmful to the atmosphere. The pipeline will carry natural gas from that very same fracking site in Pennsylvania. The project only exacerbates the problems with fracking for fuel.

Very little is known about the ramifications of shale gas fracking. It would be irresponsible to support a project that encourages the use of natural gas or disrupts natural environments like the George Washington National Forest. While the pipeline is not exactly a fracking site, it perpetuates the idea that natural gas is the way to go instead of focusing on long-term sustainable energy alternatives. And while a pipeline poses far less risk than a fracking site, even a small rupture in the pipe can cause a massive explosion. The time and money for this project would be put to much better use if we looked into better energy resources that could also create more jobs and revenue. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not worth the risk.


  1. Thank you for your well thought out article but beyond all of that is that we are losing our property rights for this and this is devaluing our property. and my county gets nothing in return for all the devastation, chance of erosion, pollution, destruction of our roads by massive equipment and risk of explosion. This is not fair. Tom Farrell, CEO for Dominion claims in the Dominion annual report to have 20 year contracts for this gas with Japan and India.

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