Letter: Unanswered questions about Parkway pipeline

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I have concerns about the new methane gas pipeline proposed to be buried under the Blue Ridge Parkway right of way.

Finally, one local newspaper has stated that the pipeline “would cross underneath the parkway adjacent to a Duke Energy powerline cut across the French Broad River from Bent Creek, near the under-construction Pratt & Whitney facility.” (Asheville Citizen Times, Jan. 12).

Why was there never a hearing about this entire pipeline before now? Now that the last segment of 760 feet (more than 2 1/2 football fields) is set to complete the project, we read that comments will be taken through Feb. 5. A number of us who are concerned about the environmental dangers to our aquifer and the French Broad River think the deadline to comment needs to be extended. In my comment, I asked for a hearing. I’ve been told that no decision on a hearing will be made until all comments have been read.

Almost every environmental law and associated encumbrance of this project under the Blue Ridge Parkway’s right of way have been mentioned in the more than 200 pages we are being asked to comment on. Every one of them has been dismissed. We are told that no land will be disturbed. The steel pipes will be horizontally buried at least 50 feet underground. What’s the big deal?

Well, here are some questions people want answered:
• How will we know that the land, aquifer and minerals won’t be impacted from drilling horizontally 50 feet below the surface?
• What hazardous chemicals are used to lubricate the powerful drills, and how will they be controlled?
• How pure will the water taken from under the new P&W bridge be returned to the French Broad once it’s used?
• Has a hydrogeologist been consulted about this?
• What about light and sound disturbances to endangered species that live in the area? Will these species, such as the bog turtle and a listed mussel, survive all this disruption to their breeding, feeding and survival habits?

This is why it would have been so important to have looked at this proposal early in the process rather than now, nearly at its end.

This is one more example of how our government and other big players in our local, regional and state power structure are keeping vital information from the people. In this proposal, all we are told is that this is being done for the benefit of “customers.” And I would add, the biggest customer, unnamed anywhere in the more than 200 pages, is the Raytheon Technologies subsidiary, Pratt & Whitney.

What are we yet to discover as this 1.2 million-square-foot facility pushes its way into our community? So far, we get about one more surprise disruption every couple of months. For more information, go to https://parkplanning.nps.gov/DominionT2ROWBuncombe.

— Rachael Bliss


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3 thoughts on “Letter: Unanswered questions about Parkway pipeline

  1. Robert

    It would be nice if a knowledgeable local leader with some answers (real ones, backed up by environmental studies and facts) responds to Rachael’s direct and eloquent letter.

  2. Voirdire

    I believe I can at least partially answer the first question: How will we know that the land, aquifer and minerals won’t be impacted from drilling horizontally 50 feet below the surface? ….you won’t, until there is a rupture. That, and the reason they bury them 50 deep is because the blast from a 36-inch ruptured LNG pipeline above ground has a complete incineration zone of one thousand feet in all directions. Hope this helps.

  3. Mike R.

    I read the environmental impact assessment and studied the project and feel the project benefit far outweighs the risks (which are managed but obviously not zero). This is a 10″ diameter pipe that will assist in reducing pressure on an older pipe; thus reducing chance of leak. Natural gas is one of our primary energy sources in this country and the infrastructure has to be kept up to date. Drilling under the blue ridge parkway I believe has a sort of emotional trigger associated with it for some people, but it appears as though they plan to do this in an environmentally safe manner. But keep in mind that nothing done in life is totally risk free. Regarding the comment above about an LNG rupture and consequences, this is not an LNG (liquified natural gas) pipeline. And yes, the commentator is correct that LNG presents an entirely differently level of risk with respect to a large break/leak/explosion. But gaseous natural gas pipeline leaks occur from time-to-time and are more readily isolated and contained.

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