Letter: Natalie Pien, Leesburg

Editor: On Sept. 26, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall issued two newsletters regarding venting of natural gas at two Dominion Transmission compressor facilities, one in Loudoun and one in Fairfax.

Natural gas is odorless. A Dominion news release stated that the natural gas odorant is not a public safety risk, but is added as a matter of public safety. Dominion failed to mention anything about natural gas itself. Unlike the odorant, natural gas is a public safety risk. The term “natural gas” sounds harmless. In reality, natural gas is predominantly methane, and methane is anything but harmless. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, methane is an 86 times more warming greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. As such, methane pollution of the common resource air, creates a global public safety risk by accelerating climate change.

Because natural gas emits less carbon dioxide when it is burned to generate electricity, it was once thought to be a bridge in our transition from fossil fuels to clean renewable sources of energy. Now, however, taking into account leakage of methane, a.k.a. fugitive emissions, from extraction sites, pipelines, and compressor stations plus the deliberate, regular “venting,” natural gas power plants actually creates greater global warming than coal-fired power plants. http://environmentalresearchweb.org/cws/article/news/60392

Moreover, a report by the Madison County Department of Health, Madison County, New York submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (the commission that issues permits for energy projects like Dominion’s compressor station and pipeline in Loudoun) raises health concerns from short term and long term exposure to the types of chemicals released from compressor station “venting,” also known in the industry as “blow downs.”  https://www.madisoncounty.ny.gov/sites/default/files/publicinformation/madison_county_doh_comments_-_docket_no._cp14-497-000.pdf

The Union of Concerned Scientists has published a comprehensive report on the multiple risks for using natural gas to meet our nation’s energy needs.  http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/natural-gas-gamble-risky-bet-on-clean-energy-future#.V_Jlq9yATPM

Blow downs are “a necessary part of Dominion’s work” and they occur periodically. In fact, a second venting/blow down was announced for Oct. 3. How often will Dominion conduct blow downs?

As if the climate change and health impacts were not enough, natural gas can be very dangerous. Methane is combustible, and mixtures of about 5 to 15 percent in air are explosive. http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/methane/methane.html

It’s time to break our addiction to fossil fuels and rapidly transition to clean renewable sources of energy. Not only will our environment be cleaner and the worst impacts of climate change avoided, our economy will grow. http://www.business.com/entrepreneurship/the-impact-of-green-energy-on-the-economy

Take a look at what is possible for Virginia at thesolutionsproject.org/infographic/#va.

Natalie Pien, Leesburg


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