More than fifty citizens from across the eastern panhandle met in Berkeley Springs Friday night to organize to defeat the proposed Mountaineer Gas pipeline.
The natural gas pipeline would cut from the Maryland border at Hancock south to Berkeley Springs and then move east to Martinsburg and then on to Jefferson County.
Many farmers and landowners who attended the meeting spoke of hardball tactics used by Mountaineer Gas in recent weeks to pressure them into signing rights of way to the company for the pipeline.
One citizen told the story of an elderly couple who were pressured into signing away their property after being told that if they didn’t sign, they would get a lot less money later.
Other residents said that Mountaineer Gas presented the pipeline as an inevitability — telling them that it was coming through “whether you like it or not” because the pipeline project was a “public project” and that eminent domain would be used to take their property if they didn’t sign it over.
No one at the meeting spoke in favor of the pipeline.
Almost everyone who spoke said they was opposed to the pipeline — either because of the pressure tactics being used by Mountaineer Gas, fear of property value loss — or because they were concerned about environmental and safety considerations.
One woman said that when U.S. Silica blasts at the nearby sand mine, she can feel the tremors and wondered what impact the blasting would have on a gas pipeline.
Others raised concerns about the route of the proposed pipeline — going so close to schools along Route 9.
Some were opposed to Morgan County being treated as a “sacrifice zone” for the benefit of large fossil fuel corporations.
Some wanted West Virginia to take the lead in transitioning away from fossil fuels and toward solar and other alternative energies.
Abigail Benjamin, an environmental lawyer who attended the meeting, said she would be travelling to Charleston next week to represent the Blue Heron Environmental Network and residents at the meeting before the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
She would raise objections to the project and ask that the Commission reject the Mountaineer Gas proposal.
During the two hour meeting, the group discussed other strategies to defeat the pipeline.