If the often-vague and always sidestepping executives of EQT Corp. and NextEra Energy thought Franklin County would be a cakewalk for their natural pipeline express running from West Virginia to Chatham, they got a hardcore lesson of what country folks think of fast-buck corporate types in Rocky Mount.
A large crowd of angry residents of Franklin descended on a meeting between the County Board of Supervisors and a briefing by EQT and NextEra — the partners for Mountain Valley Pipeline — with pointed questions and skepticism that were not answered and left most with more questions and few answers.
The $3 billion venture originally planned to carve through Floyd County but ran into massive citizen resistance and environmental realities that even the rubber-stamping folks at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) couldn’t ignore.
Now the pipeline is planned for a still-vague route that goes from a fracking operation in West Virginia and through the counties of Giles, Pulaski, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Dinwiddie. And the energy folks found that rural counties are not buying into the double-talk of often promised but seldom real economic benefits that falls far short of environmental damage, destruction of the rural environment many moved to the counties to experience and many hazards from pipelines with horrible safety records.
Franklin County Supervisor questioned the always changing FERC rules that could affect crossing of easements by farmers. When NextEra mouthpiece Christopher Sherman of NextEra said his company “can accommodate that,” Thompson responded “Yes sir, you can, but will you?”
When a Franklin County resident wanted to know how the pipeline would affect property values in the area, Sherman said he didn’t know. He claimed to now know much of the information that citizens sought.
In other cases, what Sherman said didn’t ring true with others in the crowd.
According to Zach Crizer of The Roanoke Times, claims by Sherman that the pipeline was moved out of Floyd County not because of local anger and protest but to find better crossings of the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway drew both ire and skepticism from the audience.
“The speculation is they were the most vocal, and we did not want to go Floyd County,” Sherman said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The speculation form Franklin County residents who sent emails to us overnight said the general consensus of most residents who attended the meeting in Rocky Mount was that “nothing could be further from the truth” is the best summary of most of what Sherman told them about the plans of NextEra and EQT.
Said one Franklin County resident in an email to Blue Ridge Muse: “You know how these people lie? See if their lips move.”
Others felt Sherman’s “presentation” confirmed an old observation by humorist Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies and statistics.”
An open forum is planned for Franklin County in December and the response the natural gas companies received Tuesday night was just a glimpse of the anger and skepticism they will find two months now.