Joao Barroso, Photo by Matthew Burdette, Inter-Mountain
MILL CREEK - The West Virginia Wilderness Lovers' Atlantic Coast Pipeline open house turned heated Thursday afternoon as environmental groups and local residents clashed over the joint venture of Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources.
The event, at Tyrand Ministries in Mill Creek, opened with a presentation by landowner Joao Barroso, who traveled from China to speak on his dealings with Dominion Transmission and their contracted surveyors, the Doyle Land Co.
"The first time I heard about this pipeline was April or May," Barroso said. "Not a single concern has been addressed. What I want from Doyle Land and Dominion is inside information about what's going to happen."What are you guys going to do, and what are you going to do with landowners and property owners? What's going to happen to these people? What's going to happen to the businesses and business owners?"
"I've gotten no answers whatsoever," Barroso added. "Meanwhile, Dominion Resources sends a second letter. I go through it, and Mill Creek is not there, Huttonsville is not there, Randolph County is not there (for informational gatherings). So, these guys must think that people around here are a bunch of idiots, a bunch of country bumpkins and hillbillies. They don't worry about us, because they can wipe us all out. They have enough money to kick these people out of their lands."
Attendees were able to view several displays prepared by the Wilderness Lovers. The displays contained several photographs of similar pipeline transmission projects with information about this proposed project.
The 42-inch diameter, 550-mile long pipeline will deliver natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shale fields in North Central West Virginia to Robeson County in North Carolina. The pipeline's capacity is expected to be approximately 1.5 billion cubic feet per day. The construction of the pipeline is expected to cost between $2 and $5 billion.
"I'm a Christian, and that means you treat people fairly," Barroso, who owns 648 acres in Mill Creek, said. "That's the Golden Rule. You treat people honestly, because that's the way people want to be treated. These guys don't play by that book. It's deception after deception as far as I am concerned."
Current maps, which Barroso described as fuzzy at best, shows the pipeline will cross from Helvetia, through Mill Creek, along the Kumbrabow State Forest border, across U.S. Rt 250 near the Huttonsville Correctional Center and up to Cheat Mountain.
"Dominion has not spoken to anyone in this room," said Lauren Rangland of the West Virginia Wilderness Lovers group. It's not right. Joao came from China, because he cares enough about his Mill Creek land. He's been dealing with the Dominion land men since July. A string of emails - no answers. Yet, in other counties, they are having meetings like this."
One local family, the Arbaughs, took issue with Barroso and Ragland's stance on the issue. David Arbaugh is a pipeline worker for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 132 in Charleston.
"There are people like my family. My daughter's here and my wife, my grandsons and sons - we depend on pipeline work to make our living," Arbaugh said. "You are talking about the gas companies coming in and taking your land away from you. They are not going to take your land away from you. They are going to lay a gas line."
"I know exactly what they (the gas companies) do, because I've been doing this since 1968," Arbaugh added. "You all have power. You have lights. You don't light by kerosene lanterns. Where does this power come from?"
Several of those attending the meeting were concerned about not only the size of the pipeline, but the impact it will have on the environment, especially with its proximity to the national forest.
"Am I going to put my family on a piece of land with a pipeline that can burst into flames at any time?" Barroso said. "Hell, no. I don't want my family to burn to death."
"It took me seven years to find this piece of property," Barroso added. "Why did I choose this piece of land? I love water. If I don't have water, I die. I have ponds on my property. There's plenty of trees. This was the ideal property for me. I even have caves on my property."
Arbaugh, though, countered, saying most reputable companies, including the ones he thinks will be working on this pipeline, will treat the land and local residents with respect.
"I'm not taking up for the gas company," Arbaugh said. "I'm just a working man. When we go through your land or anyone else's land, we treat you all with respect. I work union. We do things the right way. The non-union companies, I can't say what they do. These are working people just trying to make a living. These gas companies, the ones I've been around, are good people."
Uncertainty remains, though, for many local residents as Dominion has yet to talk with area citizens. The company was invited to participate in Thursday's open house; however, no representatives were in attendance.
"The maps are so fuzzy, I can't tell you how many landowners there are," Ragland said. "There are a lot of them on those maps. For that one reason only, Dominion should give all of you the respect and answers and communications and maps and letters - everything you need to know. You deserve that."