FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

In Berkeley Springs Morgan County Commission Hears Opponents of Mountaineer Gas Pipeline

The Morgan County Courthouse in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia was packed this morning with more than 45 opponents of the IGS Mountaineer Gas pipeline.


They were there to urge Morgan County Commissioners Bob Ford, Joel Tuttle and Ken Reed – all proponents of the pipeline — to reverse their position and come out against the pipeline.

First up was Morgan County farmer and landowner Patricia Kesecker. IGS Mountaineer Gas has sued the Keseckers under eminent domain in an effort to cut through the middle of their farm.

Last month, Morgan County Circuit Court Judge Laura Faircloth rubber stamped the gas pipeline company’s request to take the Kesecker farm for their pipeline.

“We felt like we were being led like sheep to slaughter,” Kesecker told the Commissioners this morning. “It was very disturbing what we were going through that morning. She not only robbed us, she robbed our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of all the work and blood, sweat and tears that we put on this farm.”

“At this time our family has decided on the advice of our attorney that an appeal of Judge Faircloth’s decision would most likely not be productive,” the family said in a statement read by Patricia Kesecker to the Commission. “Unfortunately, over the last several decades, we the people of West Virginia have put politicians into local, state and federal government that do not support our rights as independent landowners. Instead, they represent the corporations that want to damage and take our family farms and livelihoods. Our elected officials in Morgan County alone haven’t held or attended public meetings about the project. Instead, they told our family to just go ahead and sign and try to get a good deal. They even wanted us to go behind closed doors to work out something.”

“At the federal level, our own Senator Joe Manchin this past September was talking with local business leaders about the Mountaineer Gas project. He told the group that ‘If the state becomes involved, it’s a public project with eminent domain and you can move on it when you need to.’ In the same speech, he warned local landowners who may not want ‘the inconvenience of a pipeline’ on their property that ‘you all are going to get pushback.’”

“It’s definitely time to change the eminent domain culture that is alive and well in West Virginia,” Kesecker said.

Kesecker said that Bob Ford called her to set up a meeting with Mountaineer Gas to discuss terms of an agreement between the Keseckers and the company. Kesecker said that Bob Ford insisted that no reporters be present at the meeting.

Ford admitted that he told Kesecker that there would be no reporters allowed at the meeting between the Keseckers and the pipeline company.

“These kind of spectacles don’t accomplish anything,” Ford said. “I know that the people in the room think it does. But it doesn’t matter. I wanted you to get the best deal. That could be done through a contract. I would not invite the media. These spectacles don’t accomplish anything. All it does is drive the cost of the project higher and higher and gives them less money to negotiate the contracts.”

Pointing to the room full of opponents of the pipeline, Ford said – “these people aren’t going to tell you that.”

“These people live in a fantasyland,” Ford said.

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls pointed out to Ford that it was the “spectacle” and “fantasyland” of people showing up at meeting after meeting throughout Maryland that pressured the Republican Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, to sign a bill banning fracking in Maryland. Walls said that a similar campaign is now being built to pressure Hogan to block the TransCanada pipeline.

Morgan County land owner Shari Kerns-Smith reminded the Commissioners that they supported the pipeline in a letter to the West Virginia Public Service Commission more than a year ago – before the public had information about the pipeline.

Kerns-Smith wrote her own letter to the Public Service Commission in opposition to the pipeline.

Kerns-Smith said that Mountaineer Gas provided inaccurate maps, didn’t listen when corrected about property lines and ownership, they provided inconsistent information on a planned route, on the dates that they would be on the property, on the size of line, on the construction zone and size, on the liability of the landowners, and on the future negotiating of large equipment across the easement.

“They gave a dollar figure for easement and damages to my husband and I — stating they were ‘locked in on it,’” Kerns-Smith said. “Several months later the company denied that amount. The amount was down to the 38 cents. But they said they never made that offer. Apparently we were lying and just making it up. They stated that once they got the easement, which they said there was no doubt they would get, no doubt about that, they could ‘repair, alter, up size or replace’ the lines as they desired with no negotiations with the landowner. They said they could also change the line from a distribution line to ‘pump, transport, whatever’ and that they could run ‘chocolate milk, fiber optics, or oil’ through the easement if they wanted to. They could also lay other lines besides the initial line. They could take the old line out or they could offset the other line and decommission it.”

Kerns-Smith said that months after those comments were made, the company said they didn’t remember those comments, but they did reiterate they could run any kind of petroleum products through the line.

“They advised my husband and I that this is a ‘public project for the public good,’” Kerns-Smith said. “They schooled us on the fact that there are no family values, there is no sentimental value – value is only in the dollars.”

“They told us they have a right to eminent domain but would rather ‘work with’ us,” Kerns-Smith said. “They advised us not to seek legal counsel because they would then not work with us.”

“They insisted that a gas line through our property will benefit us and increase our property value. They argued with us when we said otherwise. But they did come back and admit that I would never have gas in my home, that it would not be feasible and it would not be an option.”

“This is just a sample of my personal experience and why I am in protest of this case,” Kerns-Smith said. “I feel that the company was trying to sneak into our area and use questionably ethical tactics to take advantage of property owners – some who have preserved farmland –  their family farms – for generations. If I already in October 2016 do not trust the integrity of this company, I cannot trust the future aspects of the project either.”

“Mountaineer Gas made it very clear to me that if they are not on my property, then what they are doing is none of my business,” Kerns-Smith said. “Currently, they are not on my property. They didn’t use eminent domain to come through our property. They went around me. The land agent told me that they are a small company and they don’t have much money. They couldn’t afford to go around me. But they are currently going around me. I no longer get information about the pipeline from the company because it’s ‘none of my business.’”

Kerns-Smith said that the company did not disclose that they had additional ground on our property mapped for “ATWS.”

“The WS stands for ‘work site’ and that they planned to keep equipment and supplies in a large field on our property — no compensation for this was included on their offer,” Kerns-Smith said.

Walls, the Upper Potomac Riverkeeper, warned of the risks of TransCanada’s plans to dig a pipeline under the Potomac River just west of Hancock, Maryland and said that there is a growing regional and national movement to stop that project.

The TransCanada pipeline would feed fracked gas from Pennsylvania into the Mountaineer Gas pipeline that would cut through Morgan County. Walls called on the Commission to join in the regional movement against the pipeline.

David Lillard of West Virginia Rivers told the Commission that “pipeline construction has potential to have significant impacts on nearby water bodies due to failing sediment and erosion controls, inadvertent returns of drill mud when performing underground borings, and failure to contain accidental spills in karst terrain.”

“We hope you will consider these potential impacts and seek further information,” Lillard said. “Ask yourselves – if the famed Berkeley Springs are damaged, and the local economy damaged, will a modest fine imposed on a company bring you satisfaction?”

More articles by:

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

August 16, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
“Don’t Be Stupid, Be a Smarty”: Why Anti-Authoritarian Doctors Are So Rare
W. T. Whitney
New Facebook Alliance Endangers Access to News about Latin America
Sam Husseini
The Trump-Media Logrolling
Ramzy Baroud
Mission Accomplished: Why Solidarity Boats to Gaza Succeed Despite Failing to Break the Siege
Larry Atkins
Why Parkland Students, Not Trump, Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
William Hartung
Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Morality Tales in US Public Life?
Yves Engler
Will Trudeau Stand Up to Mohammad bin Salman?
Vijay Prashad
Samir Amin: Death of a Marxist
Binoy Kampmark
Boris Johnson and the Exploding Burka
Eric Toussaint
Nicaragua: The Evolution of the Government of President Daniel Ortega Since 2007 
Adolf Alzuphar
Days of Sagebrush, Nights of Jasmine in LA
Robert J. Burrowes
A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival
August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omarosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail