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The AT is in the Path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline

Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club

An environmental impact statement on the proposed Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline is expected this month, from the companies planning to build the 300 - mile transmission line. 

Environmental organizations say they have not gotten accurate information from them about the scope of that impact on one very important environmental feature in its path: The Appalachian Trail. 

UPDATE: Earlier today, September 16th, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released a draft environmental impact statement on the Mountain Valley Pipeline project.

Diana Christopolos is president of Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, which works to maintain some 120 miles of the Appalachian Trail from south of Dismal Falls in Giles County to the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Roanoke.

“So this pipeline, unlike any others that have been built would go up and down very steep slopes in the Appalachian mountains.

The Trail club is concerned about how the pipeline could affect many of its iconic views, from McAfee’s Nob to Angel’s Rest that attract people from all over the country and beyond.

“It would cut out initially, 125 feet wide, all vegetation and take it down to dirt.  You’d have potentially a huge scar on the landscape that would never really heal.”

The club’s board has voted to formally oppose construction of the pipeline proposed by a group of energy companies including Next Era Energy and Con Edison Gas. It would be operated by EQT partners, which owns the largest share of the project.

“They are claiming that there’s not going to be any problem. Our experience with them has been that we have trouble believing their statements. I’ve been up to Peter’s Mountain where they propose to cross the trail, with others from the train conservancy and the forest service and people from the pipeline (companies) to look at the proposed crossings and they told us that we would not see the place where they proposed to bore under the Appalachian Trail.  We would not (ultimately) see the entry and exit points from the trail, but in fact they (would be) highly visible.

A spokesperson for EQT Partners was traveling and unable to return calls for this story.

Andrew Downs is Regional Director for Central and Southwest Virginia of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  “You know, we expected there would be some inaccuracies in the information that was provided. That’s just the nature of information, but there have been pretty significant short comings and inaccuracies.So I’m expecting that we will have and opportunity to ‘ground truth” and assess view shed impacts. That information needs to be represented in the Environmental Impact Statement.”

Ground truthing, that’s matching the companies' computer modeled plan to the actual terrain of the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy works closely with the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, but their paths diverge when it comes to official opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline

Downs: “Where we’re at right now, is we’re still gathering information trying to determine what impacts could be completely avoided from this proposed project and if we can get to a place where they could be significantly avoided then we won’t come out in opposition to it, however there’s still a lot of unknowns.” 

Both Appalachian Trail advocacy groups will be represented at a rally this weekend Newport, VA called,  Hands Across America.  

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.