Editor: The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce has joined with the Dulles Regional and the Greater Reston Chambers of Commerce in supporting Dominion Resources’ proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline now under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The pipeline will transmit natural gas fossil fuel extracted by hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” from the Marcellus Shale fields in West Virginia through Virginia en route to North Carolina. The chambers of commerce give economic reasons for supporting the pipeline, but do not cite their sources of information.
The first reason given is job creation, totaling 8,774 “direct,” “indirect,” “induced” jobs. This figure is barely 6 percent of the in-state jobs created by using renewable sources of energy and the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club states 90 percent of the jobs are given to out-of-state contractors who specialize in pipeline construction and only a few in-state jobs are created. According to research conducted by Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson and used in The Solutions Project, using renewable energy will create 147,141 operations and construction jobs that will provide 40 years of long-term employment.
Next, the chambers state “significant new, long-term revenue for state and local governments will be generated over the life of the project. The $2.5 billion in capital expenditures will be spent in Virginia. Annually from 2019–2038, the state will benefit from $83 million in labor income and $136 million in gross state product from the pipeline.” Using these unreferenced figures, the pipeline will bring in $35 million each year. Switching to renewables, on the other hand, will save $13.78 billion dollars annually in avoided mortality and illness cost. That is nearly 40 times more dollars in health care saved than pipeline revenues. Moreover, Virginians’ health and longevity will improve, a benefit that the pipeline cannot claim.
The final argument the chambers make is that homes and businesses will rely more on natural gas and that stable energy costs and reliability of natural gas will attract businesses to expand or relocate to Virginia. In fact, reliance on a fossil fuel is the wrong direction. All fossil fuels, natural gas included, are non-renewable resources. The Post Carbon Institute, analysis of the Marcellus Shale determined that “projections of a peak in 2018 appear on track, followed by a terminal decline.” Renewable resources, on the other hand, never run out.
The chambers also fail to consider the climate change impact of the pipeline. Just this past December, the landmark climate accord was reached in Paris, where 195 nations committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stave off climate change. No longer a bridge fuel to renewables, natural gas is just as harmful as coal. The journal Nature reports that methane natural gas leaks from well sites and along pipeline transmission lines erode the green credentials of natural gas. Further, natural gas is a far more potent green house gas than carbon dioxide. In addition to climate change impacts, fracking for natural gas has a frightening host of health, safety, and natural resource impacts.
The chambers’ poorly considered endorsement of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline does not represent today’s reality. Further, did the chambers know that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is just one of four total pipelines proposed to crisscross Virginia? Does Virginia really need another pipeline? The chambers should look beyond the interests of Dominion Resources and promote initiatives that truly benefit Virginia and Virginians, namely renewable sources of energy projects.
Natalie Pien, Leesburg