The Pipelines are Coming
By Bob Proudman and
If you see or hear something, say something!
Proposed route of Atlantic Coast pipeline
In the past year, the ATC and NPS have learned of at least 10 proposed gas pipelines that, if approved, will be built across the A.T. ATC Conservation Director Laura Belleville estimates that the number of crossings will likely double in 2015
to about two dozen between southwest Virginia and Massachusetts. See her op-ed on the cumulative impact of the proposed lines, which was recently published in the Roanoke Times
The reason for all this activity? The Marcellus shale formation—the second most productive natural gas formation worldwide—is estimated to be able to produce enough energy to supply the U.S. for 10 years. Underlying much of five eastern states including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and a sliver of Virginia, the Marcellus may actually be less productive than an even larger and deeper shale deposit, called “Utica” after the town in New York where it was first discovered in 1832.
Thanks to the technological breakthrough of hydraulic fracturing (known as “fracking”), energy companies are able to use drills turned horizontally into the thin layers of these dense shale formations, after which water and chemicals are pumped into the shale under high pressure until it fractures, releasing the natural gas.
Energy companies want to build pipelines not only to supply markets in eastern cities, but also to export, requiring access to eastern seaports. Compression stations and other infrastructure will be required and need to be addressed as well.
Coordination among state and federal agency partners will be essential. The National Park Service has briefed ATC and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Partnership Committee (RPC), and the New England RPC has been offering webinars about pipelines. APPA and NPS Northeast Region staff are working internally with other eastern national parks affected by this gas rush, and will soon meet with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil.
Specific park-by-park legislation from Congress is required to allow the NPS to consider granting a right-of-way on NPS lands. A multidisciplinary team of key NPS staff from across the country is engaged in the issue.
The Stewardship Council has formed a pipeline task force chaired by Lenny Bernstein, a chemical engineer, president of the Carolina Mountain Club, and former ATC Board and Stewardship Council member. The task force will present draft ATC policy direction about these new major threats to the A.T. at the spring RPC meetings.
NPS and ATC regional staff are asking Trail club volunteers and agency partners to report any news they hear, or activities that suggest a pipeline is being considered, such as surveyors and realty investigators in A.T. counties and towns. Staff and volunteers will also want to track individual proposals using FERC’s website at www.ferc.gov
. The “For Citizens” section provides overviews of the process, from prefiling to approval.
ATC regional staff contacts for pipeline proposals:
Protecting the Appalachian Trail is imperative. We need to be ever-vigilant.
Beth Critton is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is Director of Conservation Operations
Thanks to a two-year cooperative effort, the Laurel Fork Gorge on the Watauga Ranger District of the Cherokee National Forest has a new 60-foot bridge.
The Koonford bridge was engineered by the U.S. Forest Service and built by Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club volunteers, with funding for materials provided by NPS-APPA through ATC. 53 individuals contributed more than 2,600 hours to the project.
Eight-tenths mile of the Trail from the Dennis Cove trailhead was improved to facilitate trekking eleven tons of materials to and from the site.
To make washing out less of a threat, the new bridge is about a foot higher than the span it replaced, the rock piers were enlarged, and large rocks were placed to act as breakwaters.
See photos of the project at right.
The Mid-Atlantic region is having a very productive field season, with volunteer corridor monitors out in full force maintaining the exterior boundary of Appalachian Trail corridor lands. Those volunteers serve to protect the lands from encroachments by installing boundary signs, educating Trail neighbors on proper land use, refreshing paint blazes on boundary-line trees, and clearing brush. As our first line of defense on the ground, boundary volunteers and the work they perform is invaluable to ensuring long-term protection of the AT corridor.
Below, NY-NJTC corridor monitor and Trail neighbor
The Mid-Atlantic ATC field crew has been able to work with 10 Trail clubs in the region and visit more than 25 miles of boundary this season. Several encroachments have been resolved, resulting in the removal of abandoned tree stands and debris piles, closing off ATV trails, educating hunters, and removing an abandoned track loader that had been left in the corridor for almost 10 years.
Get Involved! ATC encourages all volunteers and trail users to report any potential encroachment to your local A.T. club and the appropriate ATC regional office. It is vital to have your eyes in the field monitoring these lands.
Land Protection Associate
ATC Mid-Atlantic Regional Office