Letter: Randy Ihara, South Riding

Editor: Dominion Energy is proposing to build a $5.1 billion, 600-mile pipeline to transport 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of fracked natural gas from West Virginia’s Marcellus shale fields through 13 central and eastern Virginia counties on its way to North Carolina. Construction is scheduled to begin this year with gas delivery to begin in late 2018.

Along with 8.4 million others, I am a citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia—and I emphasize the term, “Common-wealth.” As such, it is our collective, democratic civic responsibility and obligation to ensure that actions taken by our government achieve its purpose as defined in the U.S. Constitution—to “promote the general welfare.”

Against this standard, Dominion’s proposed pipeline project  does not “promote the general welfare.” Accordingly, Virginia’s regulatory agencies of jurisdiction should deny approval of the permits that would allow Dominion to begin construction.

The Atlantic Coastal Pipeline project fails on three substantive grounds.

First, the project will physically alter and unavoidably disrupt delicate and consequential environmental and ecological systems in one of Virginia’s most notable, and long-protected, nationally significant stores of natural resources, the George Washington National Forest, with only conjectural public compensation. Many Virginians depend on these resources for their livelihoods and quality of life.

Secondly, the economic, social and environmental costs of the pipeline will be disproportionately borne, with little or no compensation, by the residents in the communities of the 13 Virginia counties that will suffer—without their consent—the misfortunes of being designated to be on the pipeline route by Dominion Energy.

Third, but by no means last in significance, the pipeline

is a $5.1 billion investment that contributes to the progressive warming of the planet, an unprecedented global, existential issue. It is an investment in the physical infrastructure that ensures, and requires, for the foreseeable future, the expanded use of natural gas, a fossil fuel with 34 times the impact on global warming as carbon dioxide.

In the face of the threat of global climate change to generations of human and other lives worldwide, Virginia has a moral obligation to join with other states and make policy decisions consistent with the magnitude of the issue. Already coastal areas in Virginia are experiencing some of the predicted effects of global warming.

Under the leadership of Governor McAuliffe, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Dominion Energy, have made contributions to the diversification of our energy economy by expanding the installation and use of renewable energy technologies. These are prudent, necessary steps forward.

Continuing improvements in renewable energy technologies are making them cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Mass production to meet expanding demand for renewables will bring further cost reductions. In this is the future for Virginia, dictated by necessity, facilitated by technology, and promoted by government policy—with the consent of the governed.

Randy Ihara, South Riding

9 thoughts on “Letter: Randy Ihara, South Riding

  • 2017-08-02 at 1:34 pm
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    Exactly which of the many units of the GW forest are you referring to? How, exactly, is a 100 foot right-of-way going to “unavoidably disrupt delicate and consequential environmental and ecological systems” in the forest? In reality, pipeline clearings are a tremendous benefit to wildlife by providing forage and cover not present in deep forest.

    Loudoun’s had a major gas pipeline crossing it for nearly 50 years. Has this pipeline “unavoidably disrupt delicate and consequential environmental and ecological systems?” It crosses my property. I wouldn’t even know it’s there if not for the markers telling me so. I bet you’ve driven over it many times, and had no idea it was there.

    South Riding is connected to natural gas. How do you heat your home? What heats your hot water heater? What do you cook with? If things are bad as you portray, then lead by example Mr, Ihara and disconnect your home from the gas meter. While you’re at it, disconnect the electric box as well. It’s highly likely your electricity is generated by gas, coal, or nukes.

    Go full on, (if the HOA permits it) and run your house on exclusively solar panels in your yard and roof. Set the example. Tell us how it works out for you.

    While you’re at it, ask Gov 47% how his “electric car” factory in Mississippi worked out? Ask him what happened to the tax money he took for it. Ask him how many of his “cars” are on the road today in America.

    • 2017-08-12 at 5:09 pm
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      When you learn how to make an argument on an issue, I’d be more than happy to engage in a debate. But your entire screed is one irrelevant point after another that never even acknowledges–or perhaps you don’t know– what the issues are. Lastly, your meager attempts at making the cutting remark is pretty pathetc and should be something of an embarrassment.

  • 2017-08-03 at 9:53 pm
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    Chris is missing the point. The point is to stop building more fossil fuel infrastructure. That is the first step. He is also is making the classic mistake of saying that if your suggestion isn’t perfect it isn’t worth doing. Poppycock!

    Chris, I have natural gas heat and stove in my house because it was built that way 25 years ago. But I have upgraded my heating to a hybrid furnace/heat pump, added extra insulation and air sealing, and a bunch of solar panels on my roof. I also have one electric car and a second on order. I have an electric lawnmower. All the rest of my power comes from wind. My carbon footprint is not zero, but it’s a lot smaller than it was.

    The point is that if the money were invested not in new pipelines but in simple cheap building upgrades then we could reduce gas usage, save money, and help the planet rather than paying extra to Dominion every month for a pipeline we don’t need or want. Did you know that’s how utilities make most of their money? Not selling you gas or electricity, but building new infrastructure and having ratepayers pay for it, with a tidy profit built in.

  • 2017-08-04 at 1:05 am
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    I would like to ask what in my letter elicited your demeaning, hostile response, rather than an effort to engage in a discussion, one person to another, perhaps pointing out the logical or factual flaws in my letter? For your sake, I hope this isn’t the way you normally treat others, that it’s just the temporary result of a dispeptic moment. Otherwise, I’d be more than happy to discuss and provide documentation for the claims and concerns in my letter. I’m a firm believer in the value of discussing issues and disagreements as a preferred way of gaining a better understanding of the points of view of others. When I receive a response such as yours, I’m compelled to find out what’s behind the expressions of hostility.

    Randy

    • 2017-08-12 at 6:17 pm
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      I’ve read Dominion’s materials applauding the benefits of their project. Unfortunately, it’s what Dominion leaves out that is of most concern. And when I did some research on their project proposal, I came away completely dissatisfied with the lack of real answers–this is based on their own materals about the project! For example, They offer figures about the jobs benefits for Virginians, more than 17,000 construction jobs, but only 2,200 jobs after that. So I wondered why they didn’t offer estimates of the employment from the companies that would pretsumably be buying the gas. The answer is, they have NO CUSTOMERS! There is no mention of the companies that would be the customers buying gas from the pipeline. The pipeline will deliver 1.5 BILLION cubic feet of gas PER DAY. Who’s going to buy all that gas?!
      That led me to a second question. If they have no customers, who’s paying the $5.1 BILLION dollars to construct the pipeline? That should be a pretty risky and sizeable capital investment, especially if you have no known customers. Well, according to Dominion, they’ll be investing about $300 Million (about 48% of the total cost), with the consortium of companies that are jointly funding it, paying the rest. But Dominion is a regulated utility, as are a couple of the other companies in the joint venture. That means that they’ll get a guaranteed rate of return on their investment from the regulatory commissions responsble for overseeing them, and the costs will go into Dominion’s rate base. In other words, Dominion’s customers will be paying for it in their utility bills.
      Then I looked at the map of the 600 mile route, and saw that the pipeline will go through 13 Virginia counties on its way to North Carolina. North Carolina?!! Why would it go there? Is it headed to the coast were the gas could be sold for export? Could be. Dominion isn’t saying. If so, the REAL users of the gas may be in another country altogether! Now I don’t object to helping other countries meet their energy needs, but Virginians are going to be the ones paying for it. Specifically, the residents of the 13 counties will be paying the costs imposed on them by the pipeline, from lowered property values, lost business revenues from tourism, upon which many rely for income and jobs. These are not wealthy counties; they don’t have diversified economies that can abosrb losses that studies of the economic impacts estimate will be in the millions of dollars annually.
      And finally, the construction of under extreme conditionsthe pipeline and the associated access roads wlll unavoidably cause tremendous environmental and ecological damage. The construction will take place under incredibly adverse conmditions, up steep mountain slopes (steeper than most engineering firms have experience with). They are going to bury the 42-inch pipeline ten feet deep in the ground, so that means digging a ten foot-deep, several mile long trench through Old Growth Foearby rest, crossing more than 1,000 streams and other waterbodies threatening the water quailty of the watersheds upon which the residents of more than 15 local communities depend for ther water needs. For many of those residents, their water needs are met by the wells on their property, but the pipeline is going through their backyards, and the heavy construction wlll damage their wells and their water, just as road construction and repair does on a regular basis.
      So, in view of those costs, some which has not yet been estimated, especially for the National Forest through which the pipeline wll be built. So, that left me wth an unaswered question: How much wlll this pipeline REALLY cost, and who is REALLY going to pay for it?
      Oh, I forgot to mention, if a local landowner doesn’t want to sell his or her property to Dominion so they can put the pipeline through their backyard, Dominion can take the land through eminent domain! So on top of all the other costs these people face, the final insult will be the loss of their property rights! That alone is enough reason to oppose the project!

  • 2017-08-05 at 2:36 am
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    Your home is powered in large part by natural gas Mr. Ihara. How is any reasonable person supposed to take your lament about a natural gas pipeline not in Loudoun, seriously?

    The gas, which powers your home is transferred through an intricate network of pipes, which start somewhere at a major pipeline that crosses several states. I understand that can be uncomfortable for some, but it’s pure reality.

    Until the day you disconnect your gas meter and electric box from your home and go total solar power, you are a hypocrite.
    When you disconnect from all the utilities of your comfortable suburban South Riding home, and go full on solar, I will be the first to salute you.

    Until then, every reasonable person expects a challenge from the community when they enter the public arena. It’s called debate. Dialogue and debate is beyond price. It’s our collective First Amendment Right.

    “Darth…” Outstanding, logical, and coherent case about infrastructure (party on Darth!). I respect the input and clarity.

  • 2017-08-12 at 5:19 pm
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    When you learn how to construct a substantive argument, I’ll be more than happy to engage in a discussion. Unfortunately, a series of disconnected insults that are totally irrelevant to the points I raised, is hardly worth a serious response. Your attempts at sarcasm and the cutting remark are pretty pathetic and infantile, and should be a source of embarrassment. That may say something about the level of your persomnal standards.

  • 2017-08-14 at 3:10 pm
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    Save the tisk-tisking Mr, Ihara. Is your home connected to a natural gas line? I bet it is. Thus, your zeal in condemning a natural gas line, while you are a consumer of natural gas, makes you a hypocrite.
    Hypocrisy is hard for anyone to admit, but that’s the case here. Why is it acceptable for you to have clean cheap natural gas powering your home, but not for others?

    There is no natural gas well in South Riding, so how does the gas travel into your home? It comes through a vast network of pipes throughout Loudoun County. That in turn is fed by larger lines that transit many states, plenty of counties, and communities, including a major line running through the heart of Loudoun.

    You say there will only be 2200 jobs created after completion, and 17,000 during construction, many of them likely union. The region of Virginia where these jobs would be is in desperate need of any jobs. Are you going to go down state and tell these potential union workers “Sorry, we your betters up in wealthy Loudoun can’t abide a gas pipeline, so tough luck? Probably not.

    You say you were a labor organizer. In your role as a local democrat party boss, are you really selling out blue collar union workers in the name of the cult of wealthy radical environmentalists? Sure does sound like it.

    You say the building of the pipeline will “cause tremendous environmental and ecological damage.” I ask you again, where in Loudoun County, or any other location where a pipeline runs, is this damage? Start at your gas meter on your house Mr. Ihara. Try following the pipe network, and point out the “ecological damage.” Likely, you have no idea how or where the natural gas which flows into your home comes from.

    You say there is no customer for this gas: You are completely wrong. Companies don’t pour billions into infrastructure without a buyer at the other end. That’s basic economics, Mr. Ihara. If you’d really ‘studied’ this issue as you claim, then you already know the line will feed Dominion and Duke power plants in southside VA and North Carolina. Ah yes… Electricity for Virginians — perish the thought. The arm which goes to the Hampton Roads area is to expand manufacturing, which they desperately need, as there is already rationing in that area due to a lack of capacity. Jobs for Virginians… perish the thought. The remaining gas will go to eastern North Carolina to create new manufacturing. That means jobs. I’m puzzled how you missed all that data.

    Mr. Ihara, you have a habit of making public claims, and then questioning anyone who challenges those claims. You speak in derogatory tones, and claim you’re the only one who knows the issues, thus it’s impossible to be challenged. That’s called folly. Such traits are not rational. It’s apparent to me, you don’t know the first thing about natural gas pipelines, how they’re created, and what they provide, other than turning up your thermostat.
    Disconnect your gas and electric meters Mr. Ihara. If your convictions on the pipeline are truly strong, lead by example.

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