2017-07-19 / Opinions

Time for public gas line meeting

It’s clear that many Morgan County residents are concerned and have strong opinions about the prospect of a new natural gas pipeline being built here. The recent court hearings granting Mountaineer Gas eminent domain rights through a local farm have ramped up protests against the project. Meanwhile, the main arguments in favor of the gas line are tied to economic development but aren’t very forceful. Both sides are basically lobbying for public opinion with their arguments. That leaves a number of legitimate questions unanswered.

Now is the time for our three elected County Commissioners to rise to the level of their office and set up a public meeting on the issue. So far, their approach has been to downplay concerns, work behind the scenes or join rant sessions on social media. We need something better.

A public meeting on the gas project was promised by earlier commissions. Mountaineer Gas officials from the start said that the local Economic Development Authority would host and take the lead on a public event about the gas line’s route and other facets of the project. Neither event has happened.

Now, more than ever, local residents want to feel that elected officials can make good on their promise to protect the county’s interests. Our commissioners must do that publicly, in a venue that is open to all, and without further delay. For some people, it may already be too late.

Residents want to hear, with their own ears, that their commissioners are aware of their concerns and hopes in regards to this project. They also want to hear solid factual answers about the pipeline itself. Those answers can come from the company, state pipeline regulators, independent industry experts or any number of people that can shed light on what a 23-mile distribution line project could look like. It’s certainly not the first gas line to be laid in West Virginia. The state is full of them.

Our county officials should gather gas line experts in one place and hash out the most important areas of concern. What protections are in place for current and future landowners, and their neighbors, to deal with a gas line in the ground over the long haul? How will Mountaineer prepare local first responders to respond to emergency calls in and around a pipeline or its natural gas equipment? What happens to residents, the water and land in the event of a gas line leak? Will a local residential gas line be installed, and when? Will county ordinances have to be updated to account for the new utility, and if so – which ones?

Commissioners must start to lead the way on this issue, or risk losing their credibility as leaders. If the gas line never happens, they won’t lose a thing from holding a public meeting on the issue. If the line is built without officials exercising their power of oversight, residents will remember exactly who left them out there to deal with it alone. That feeling is already growing.

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right ON. What are they

right ON. What are they trying to hide? Why haven't the gas company people been around to answer questions? It seems like the only time we see them is in court when they're trying to steal someone's farmland. I think they're afraid.