Area citizens organizing to defeat the proposed TransCanada and Mountaineer natural pipelines were intrigued when they were told that Mountaineer Gas had agreed to a public debate on February 4, 2017.
The citizens were excited by the opportunity to debate Mountaineer Gas and posted the event on their Facebook page — Eastern Panhandle Protectors.
“On February 4, 2017, newly elected WV Delegate Marshall Wilson will moderate a debate between Tom Westfield, Senior Vice President of Mountaineer Gas, and Abigail Benjamin, Counsel for Blue Heron Environmental Network in Berkeley County, West Virginia,” the notice read. “Details to follow.”
But the only detail to follow was that the event was cancelled.
Mountaineer wouldn’t say why. Delegate Wilson said it was a scheduling conflict.
In fact, it was more than a scheduling conflict.
Mountaineer Gas didn’t like what was being written about their project in the press.
The company especially didn’t like the activists saying that the TransCanada and Mountaineer natural gas pipelines were not needed because solar and wind and alternative energy were knocking on West Virginia’s door.
“They changed their mind after reading some comments on a public website from local environmentalists,” said one person familiar with the company’s response. “There will be a private meeting with Mountaineer Gas with eastern panhandle legislators about the pipeline route in the second week of the legislative session. Mountaineer Gas wanted to invite a representative of the citizens’ group to the meeting. But the trade for doing that would be to get a commitment from other citizens along the route to stop making public comments like ‘we should use solar energy instead of gas.’ They are willing to meet if the environmentalists started being more moderate in their speech about the pipeline.”
What language do they oppose?
“They should stop talking about the need for solar energy right now because that isn’t helping the conversation,” this person said.
But citizens said they won’t stop talking because solar has already eclipsed fossil fuels.
“Solar energy is an established energy industry providing more jobs than coal, natural gas and oil combined” said Mike McKechnie, president of the Morgan County based Mountain View Solar, the largest solar installation company in West Virginia.
“Solar energy has almost exactly twice as many jobs (374,000) as coal, natural gas, oil and petroleum combined (187,000). The solar energy industry is growing at a rate of 20 percent to 22 percent year after year. It’s cleaner, more sustainable and it has more jobs. This is where the jobs are. We don’t need any more dirty fossil fuel energy. The country and the world has turned to solar energy. It’s way ahead of fossil fuels and it’s not going to stop.”