L-45’s Watson addresses pipeline safety

EDITOR’S NOTE: This op-ed first appeared in The Farmville Herald, published October 24.

L-45 BM-ST Danny Watson

For three years, discussion of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has tended to focus on a small but vocal group that opposes the pipeline. I know these folks have spent hours protesting and making sure their voices have been heard. Discussion is an important part of the process, and I would like to add my comments to it.

The facts regarding this project seem to get lost in translation. As someone who has actually worked on these projects and seen the operations of existing pipelines, I have firsthand knowledge of how safe the construction and operations of these projects are.

I have decades of experience working on similar projects. I know they can and will be built and operated safely. I have trained hundreds of men and women in Virginia who have worked in the pipeline construction industry. I’ve witnessed personally the dedication, care and skill that goes into building a project like this. I’ve seen and experienced the intensive training and preparation that welders, pipefitters and other tradesmen have to go through to get their certifications to even appear on a job site of this nature. I’ve seen the careful inspection and oversight that takes place at every stage of construction to make sure the work is done properly.

I not only know these projects are safe because I’ve worked on them, but because in our communities, thousands of miles of pipelines already exist. They have not disturbed the environment, farms or water quality of any of these communities. These pipelines have been in the ground for decades, completely safe and practically unnoticeable.

Recently at a local DEQ hearing I attended, I heard a person question the safety of pipelines in the rare instance of a sinkhole. I’m here to tell you with my years of knowledge in this industry, pipelines are engineered, designed and built with materials to withstand sinkhole formation without compromising pipe integrity or safety.

I’ve worked with Dominion before. Safety and environmental compliance are top priorities. ACP will have two environmental inspectors per construction spread on-site during construction, supervised by a construction supervisor at each spread with oversight by an Environmental Compliance Coordinator. These inspectors will monitor activities daily for possible environmental concerns and have the authority to stop work if they identify environmental compliance issues. In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will have one full-time inspector per spread. These folks have one job — making sure the job is done safely.

During this project thus far, Dominion Energy, landowners, environmental experts, federal agencies and community members have worked together to adjust and re-adjust the route more than 300 times to ensure the most responsible route was selected. Recently, FERC stated in its impact statement that the plans laid out for ACP will allow this project to be done safely with little impacts on the environment and water quality.

I am tremendously proud to support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and I’m excited by the prospect in helping to build it. To those concerned, please understand it is our job and our passion to build this pipeline safely, not just for your community and family, but for mine too.

DANNY WATSON is the business manager for International Brother of Boilermakers Local 45, representing members throughout the state, including Buckingham County and surrounding counties. He resides in Amelia. His email address is l45dwatson@gmail.com.