‘Insist on state-of-the-art fiber’

Published 4:12 pm Thursday, April 6, 2017

If the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is built, those whose land it crosses and who live within the blast and evacuation zones deserve the best safety protection available.

Originally, leaders of the ACP said the pipeline would be monitored 24/7 along its entire length by fiber broadband based technology. 

Now, ACP says that telecommunications companies persuaded ACP regulators to forbid ACP from using fiber. Currently, the telecommunications companies refuse to provide our area with fiber-based broadband, saying it is not profitable. However, they should not have the ability to force us to live with wireless broadband safety monitoring that we know, from daily experience, is not dependable. ACP may not be able to allow citizens to use the fiber broadband it owns, but it should not be possible to prohibit ACP from using fiber monitoring.

Already, Congress has directed the federal pipeline safety agency — PHMSA, or the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — to prioritize populated areas.  Pipeline owners are allowed to use cheaper, thinner pipe in rural areas. They are also allowed to save money by placing automatic cut-off valves up to 20 miles apart in rural areas but only three miles apart in populated areas. The ACP will be under much higher pressure than traditional pipelines, so more gas will be forced through the huge 42-inch pipelines. When explosions occur, the resulting fires must burn out. They cannot be put out, so rural areas could experience much bigger, longer-lasting fires.

This means that while rural areas may contain fewer human beings per mile, those along the pipeline route are forced to live with the risk of a much more dangerous impact. The very least that these citizens deserve is the best available monitoring technology.

The miles and miles of unattended rural pipeline also create a terrorist target.

On Monday, April 17, the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors could decide whether to approve a special use permit for a microwave communications tower for the compressor station. Fiber-based broadband is available at the company’s Bremo Bluff facilities (22 miles away) and in Buckingham Court House (six miles away). 

Buckingham cannot make ACP use fiber broadband along the entire pipeline, but if it denies the communication tower permit, it can insist on state-of-the-art fiber at the compressor station. This will give Buckingham’s citizens the best available pipeline safety monitoring.

Irene Ellis Leech is from Mt. Rush in Buckingham. Her email address is ileech@vt.edu.