By Cindy Ellis
This little cautionary tale is not needed by those fighting the ACP and MVP. Nevertheless, it might bolster the arguments that they use about pipeline impacts by noting the woes of folks in western West Virginia, where the 165 mile- long, 36- inch MXP has been in operation since March, 2019. A number of roads damaged by construction remain unrepaired in 14 counties. I attended a meeting for airing concerns. Here’s some of what happened:
On Tuesday, October 15, more than fifty people met in a local church, in northern Putnam County, to question WV DOT and DOH officials about roads extensively damaged by activities of MXP pipeline construction. This event was arranged for constituents by state senator Glenn Jeffries, who had also taken DOT/DOH staff on tour of the impacted areas.
Some staffers had also agreed to attend the meeting to answer questions. They were: Jimmy Wriston, Deputy Secretary, WV Department of Transportation, Travis Knighton, District 1 Engineer, WVDOH and Jason Foster, Chief Engineer, WVDOH.
The first question was, “When are our roads going to be fixed?” “It is difficult to say,” was the response. “TC Energy [formerly TransCanada, formerly Columbia] says they are finished with their contractual obligations on this project. We have made an inspection/evaluation and we will be sending TC a reply to say they will not be released from their bond.”
Another resident asked if the bond would be enough and was told the amount of the bond was $4 million dollars.
When another question was, “Can the state do repairs while the bond is in effect?” the reply was, “We can do maintenance and bill them.” But later there seemed to be some uncertainty if that could/would happen.
“Was the bond supposed to cover maintenance DURING the project?”
“The company was charged with maintaining NORMAL road conditions.”
Safety concerns were a big concern of those present, especially for children on school buses and for emergency vehicles. Several pointed out that it is now routine for regular residential traffic to veer sharply from potholed, crumbling, and washboarded sections of the roads, placing vehicles in the path of oncoming traffic.
Blacktop? Some noted that paving cannot proceed in colder weather, leaving us with damaged roads for another season.
There are rumors of an additional pipeline, in the same Right of Way as this one, said one resident. Others nodded.
“Who can we appeal to?”
[One resident showed letters he had received in response to his queries to national Senators Capito and Manchin. One reply said that Mr. Wriston had said roads would be repaired by July 1, 2019.]
Senator Jeffries reminded that this is a FERC project; that is that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the permitting agency for the MXP. And a DOT/DOH answer was, “We are trying to work through the process.”
Senator Jeffries told the audience that there is a link on his website to the DOH process for seeking reimbursement for road damages to vehicles
One theme of statements was disappointment and anger at state officials and agencies for lack of information and preventive research on the MXP.
Petition? “Can we get up a delegation to go to Manchin and Capito?” asked one. Additionally, “Every individual should contact them!” someone said.
“The state should litigate against TC!” added another.
Senator Jeffries also spoke of upcoming bills in the WV Legislature to deal with these pipelines/roads matters and that there is a feeling among lawmakers now to fix the roads before more “utilities” projects occur.
At the end of the meeting, Deputy Secretary Wriston spoke at length, touching on WV roads maintenance in recent history and declaring that he had hired one person to deal with pipelines/roads matters. He mentioned a complaint process available on the DOT website.
Senator Jeffries thanked the highways officials and everyone for attending. The constituents gave Senator Jeffries a standing ovation.