The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) has been an ongoing project for many years to bring natural gas to parts of West Virginia and Virginia but has been met with citizens’ concerns about safety and environmental impact.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) with the U.S. Department of Transportation has been conducting inspections for corrosion control, coating remediation, ultraviolet radiation, and movement of land-related issues, and overall impact on the environment. A Notice of Proposed Safety Order was issued on Aug. 11, 2023, to the Equitrans Midstream Corporation for necessary safety actions needed to take place for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. More detailed information on their findings can be found www.phmsa.dot.gov.
An additional concern for some time is the need to classify 911 telecommunicators as first responders, which would provide additional funding, benefits, and compensation to essential personnel in our communities. Individuals addressed the Board of Supervisors with their concerns at the Sept. 25 regular supervisors meeting.
Anita Puckett of Blacksburg said, “Right now, they are classified as clerical and there are a lot of benefits and compensation they cannot get, and we cannot apply for grants in order for them to get proper technologies to respond very quickly and fully to especially the kinds of major disasters that may happen under this pipeline.”
Irene Leach of Elliston said, “For the last 10 years, I have been learning about pipelines…I’m really concerned about the safety.”
According to Board of Supervisors Chair, Sherri Blevins, the reclassification of 911 telecommunicators has been difficult to meet with governmental change in the General Assembly for some time.
“Our 911 dispatchers are literally the first ones that answer that call,” Blevins said. “They are the First Responders. Deborah O’Brien explained to us and how that they’ve been for years trying to get this passed and changed in the General Assembly for reclassification.”
Deborah O’Brien is the Operations Manager at New River Valley Emergency Communications Regional Authority, also referred to as NRV911. Jason Milburn serves as Director of the department.
Additional concerns about communication in the face of an emergency or disaster were also mentioned at the meeting. Pipeline locations in rural areas where there is no cell signal could mean a longer time to convey emergency information to citizens.
Linda Majors, “They need to turn off the valves when there is an explosion so that they just burn the gas between the valves rather than 100 miles of gas, the valves are like 30 miles apart” Linda Majors said. “The problem is with Mainline Valve 26; nobody has cell service down there.”
Citizens also called for more information to be shared with the public in preparing them for potential life-threatening situations, if they were to occur, with the pipeline.
Georgia Deremis of Blacksburg said, “Many of you know that we no longer have the avenue of going through the EPA to have the environmental regulations, but the Mountain Valley Pipeline is required to do safety trainings in the communities where it goes through. I haven’t seen any of that happening.”
In other business during the meeting, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a National First Responders Day that will happen on Oct. 28, 2023, and will include 911 operators along with all fire, rescue, emergency services, and law enforcement.