Area residents protest Dominion pipeline

Treasa Vogel, of Stephens City, beats a drum as her group protests fracking and pipeline construction. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — A dozen valley residents gathered in Front Royal to protest Dominion’s planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Tuesday.

Stephens City resident Maya White Sparks organized the Front Royal march through her organization, Women’s Alliance of Environmental Justice and Renewal.

“The time has come to stop using fossil fuels as much as possible, not to be creating more infrastructure,” Sparks said. “And I don’t care if it’s not in my own back yard, I’m concerned about it happening anywhere in the George Washington National Forest.”

Sparks said. “You can’t put a pipeline through the park. We have to be guardians, we have to be stewards of what lands have been set aside.”

The group marched on the sidewalks of downtown Front Royal, chanting phrases such as “No pipeline!” and carrying signs reading “Save Our Forests.”

Treasa Vogel, of Stephens City, carries a "Protect VA!" sign along South Royal Avenue in Front Royal as her group protests fracking and pipeline construction. Rich Cooley/Daily

Dominion’s planned pipeline is slated to cross through sections of the George Washington National Forest in Augusta and Nelson counties.

The project is projected to cut energy costs in Virginia and North Carolina by an estimated $377 million, according to a study completed by ICF International in February.

ICF’s study also reported an expected 1,045 jobs that could be created along the pipeline, with a boost of $93 million to local economies.

Sparks’ protest was part of the Hearts Across Our Land movement organized through Friends of Nelson County as a way to protest the pipeline project across the region.

According to its website, Friends of Nelson helped organize a total 27 protests across eight states, including Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina.

Members of the Women's Alliance of Environmental Justice and Renewal march along the corner of Main Street and Royal Avenue in Front Royal on Tuesday evening to protest hydraulic fracking and gas pipeline construction. Rich Cooley/Daily

Sparks and protesters who marched through Front Royal are opposed to the project for a number of reasons.

“There’s so many areas where the pipeline could hit karst which, if there’s any leaks … liquids move so quickly and could contaminate ground water,” Sparks said.

Naomi Eastwood, of Unison, said, “My husband and I got married on Skyline Drive and I’m like, ‘you know what, this is one of the most amazingly beautiful, untouched places that there are very few of left.”

Eastwood said that she thinks there are other forms of energy companies could be using – such as solar, wind and geothermal.

Referencing the national forest, Eastwood said, “It’s protected land, except if you’re a big corporation with tons of money … they don’t need to build that pipeline. It’s just straight greed.”

Melissa Sylvan, of Front Royal, has owned and operated a small organic-based landscaping company, Metamorphosis Plantscapes, for 10 years.

Sylvan said, “This is my first time doing anything with this project, but I care, and I’m always doing what I can to do my part.”

Along with the march, Sparks and other participants were handing out flyers, calling for residents to write letters to the editor, sign an online petition to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (at http://bit.ly/132y6JH) and to spread the word through social media.

“We want to help educate the local community,” she said. “You can see, not many people came out today. I don’t think people are waking up to the fact that the environment is so threatened right now.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com