Natural gas important to regional growth but opponents want renewable energy instead

West Virginia

JEFFERSON COUNTY, W.Va. (WDVM) — It’s the fastest-growing region of West Virginia. And some think it is growing too fast.

There are growing pains in the eastern panhandle. So just what role does natural gas play in the region’s future?

With a green light for a compressor station in Berkeley County, opponents of more natural gas infrastructure in the eastern panhandle are raising objections. They claim the new Rockwool industrial project in Jefferson County is behind it. The building insulation manufacturer, set to employ 150 perhaps by year’s end, maintains the compressor station will benefit the entire region — not just Rockwool — when there is peak demand.

But opponents of Rockwool, and of natural gas altogether, for that matter, want no more pipelines and no more gas transported by truck.

“It’s an evacuation or an explosion risk for residents in this community,” says Tracy Cannon, who chairs Eastern Panhandle Protectors. But champions of economic development in the eastern panhandle insist that natural gas is key to attracting new employers who create jobs. And a recent federal court decision putting the brakes on the TransCanada pipeline in the region is already giving some prospective ventures for Berkeley and Jefferson counties pause. But natural gas opponents insist there are other fuel sources for business here.

“We shouldn’t be putting in more pipelines,” says Dr. Christine Wimer, president of the Jefferson County Foundation, “because we’re moving to more renewable energy.”

Meanwhile, Mountaineer Gas is reportedly scouting as many as three sites for a compressed natural gas facility in the Berkeley-Jefferson county region. And Rockwool, opponents say, will consume 1.6 million cubic feet of gas per day.

Opponents of the pipeline plan to register their protest at public hearings held by regulatory bodies such as the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the state Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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