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Western Virginia Lawmakers Pushing Pipeline-related Legislation

Lawmakers from southwest Virginia are pushing several bills responding to controversial plans to build natural gas pipelines in Virginia.

For Senator John Edwards, a Democrat from Roanoke, the concern over the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines is not just about politics. It’s about preserving groundwater and protecting the rights of landowners. And basic safety. “Keep in mind that pipelines leak. They all leak," Edwards said at during a news conference at the capitol. "People are not aware of that. They leak all the time, and they have to check them all the time. And all you need is a leak and a spark and BAM you have a forest fire.”

That’s why Edwards and two other Democrats from southwest Virginia are pushing a handful of bills designed as a response to the controversial pipelines. Delegate Chris Hurst, a Democrat from Blacksburg, says lawmakers need to protect people who own land in the path of the pipeline from having surveyors randomly show up on their property. “We want to make sure that landowners are at the table not on the menu when it comes to the surveying process for these projects. And there’s going to be more of them to come. Don’t let anybody fool you,” Hurst said.

Delegate Sam Rasoul, a Democrat from Roanoke, has two bills that would strengthen the powers of the State Water Control Board. He says the board should not be a rubber stamp approving permits without serious consideration.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.