Public hearing in Radford on environmental impacts of Mountain Valley Pipeline

It's the first time state legislators have heard opinions on the issue

RADFORD, Va. – People in Southwest Virginia got their first opportunity Tuesday evening to publicly voice their opinions about the Mountain Valley Pipeline to state regulators. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) is looking at how the project could affect waterways, wildlife, and geology along its route, and the hundreds who showed up were divided on whether the project should move forward.

Before the meeting could even begin, hundreds gathered outside the auditorium in protest.

"It's not needed, it's a waste of good water resources. It's inconceivable how they could even think about this pipeline coming through any part of this region," said Nan Gray, a homeowner who traveled to Radford for the meeting from Craig County.

Gray brought with her a map of where she lives, and concerns about how the pipeline would affect her drinking water. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is expected to cross more than 1,100 different rivers and streams along its route, including dozens of tributaries to the New River, that runs right through the City of Radford. Some people consider that an acceptable risk, but others believe it could cause long-term harm to their drinking water.

"Everybody's on well water and spring water. In fact we have a 100 year agreement with the Department of Environmental Quality. We have a state observation well 232 on our property," said Gray.

But others offering comments to the VDEQ are afraid of what will happen if the pipeline doesn't get built.

"If we have a large company that wants to come to this area, we can't handle them, and they won't come, and we won't have jobs, and we won't have a future," said Max Beyer, who is on the Pipeline Advisory Committee for Roanoke County.

Beyer was one of several who advocated for building the pipeline to spur economic development. He says he trusts the VDEQ, that talked about how it will mitigate the many environmental concerns.

"Blasting, building, going over special geologic areas, there's a lot of karst in this region. There's steep slopes, there's areas that are prone to rock slides, so those types of things we, the agency is proposing additional conditions and restrictions on any construction," said Ann Regn, VDEQ Director of Outreach.

But for those like Gray, who might be directly affected, the measures aren't enough.

"If they really do build this pipeline, they will be changing the water flow in the karst, in the soil and they will not be able to control it," said Gray.

The VDEQ is hosting three more public hearings, with the next one Wednesday night in Chatham.