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What Should be a libertarian Response to the Pipeline Issue?

I was pondering the pipeline issue from a libertarian perspective.

Apparently, there are two views on this question and it seems driven more by so-called global warming/anti-fracking agitation and concern for disturbing of pristine conditions.  From the Southern Environmental Law Center:

Rivers, streams and forests of the central Appalachian Mountains are in the crosshairs of proposed interstate gas pipeline projects. One of these projects, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, would cut through one of the most intact conservation landscapes in the Southeast in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, including sections of the George Washington, and Monongahela national forests, to move natural gas from the well-fields to Mid-Atlantic and Southeast customers.


This unnecessary pipeline will not only harm the mountains, forests and waterways in it’s path – it will also disrupt the lives of the people living and working along its 600 mile long route and lock a new generation into decades more of fossil fuel consumption.

From the Oil Change International site:

In Virginia, picking up Trump’s slack on climate change must include proactively stopping the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, and the increased gas reliance they would enable. Dominion Energy’s Virginia subsidiary, the largest utility in the state, plans to continue investing heavily in gas-fired power plants. It’s doing so at the expense of seriously accelerating clean energy investments, despite the fact that Virginia lags far behind neighboring North Carolina and Maryland in tapping its solar and wind resources, and ranks in the bottom-third of all states on energy efficiency.

Addressing carbon emissions only at the point of gas combustion – as the gas industry would like policymakers to do and as McAuliffe has thus far obliged – is like trying to save a burning house by spraying water on one side and jet fuel on the other. The flames will keep growing.

Now the pro-pipeline position is that it is safe, will be regulated and creates jobs.

The economic benefits of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are clear – 17,000 new jobs, $377 million in annual energy cost savings, $28 million in new local tax revenue and the revitalization of the region’s manufacturing economy.


Connecting our region with new supplies of cleaner-burning natural gas will help lower emissions and improve air quality in our communities.

For years, coal was the leading source of electricity to power homes and businesses in our region. With federal environmental regulations calling for lower emissions and cleaner air, electric utilities are turning to cleaner-burning natural gas, which produces half the carbon emissions of coal and an even smaller fraction of other air emissions.

The three candidates for governor take interesting positions on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline:

Gillespie:  Very pro-pipeline (from the Ed Gillespie campaign web site):

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is an important part of Virginia’s energy infrastructure and will provide access to affordable, reliable natural gas, saving Virginians nearly $377 million on energy costs each year. The project will create as many as 17,000 new, good-paying jobs and help Virginia to attract additional capital investment with a projected $2.7 billion in additional economic activity.

“The question is simple: Is Ralph Northam for or against this critically important project for Virginia’s economic future? The governor supports it. The unions support it. Virginians overwhelmingly support it. I support it. Do you, Ralph Northam? We’re all waiting.”

Northam is not clear (from the Washington Post):

Northam has said only that the pipelines should get strict environmental review, while his rival for the nomination, former congressman Tom Perriello, has flatly opposed them.

Now the Libertarian Cliff Hyra (from an interview with RVA magazine) NO WAY!:

Shroder: Would you come out and say you are against the pipeline?

Hyra: I am against the pipeline, absolutely. ACP and MVP, I am against it. I was just in Glassburg this weekend and of course there are a lot of people out there who feel very passionate about it. One of the issues is that from the standpoint of Virginia, our role is to review the environmental concerns. And I think [with] the use of eminent domain across a huge part of the Commonwealth, you should be making sure that these companies are not being cut any special breaks.

I was surprised to see this position.  Now to be fair, Hyra’s big concern is eminent domain abuse.  But Dominion and other public utilities have had for many years eminent domain authority.  And regulated public utilities are an issue for any libertarian.  But it seems that private parties, acting within the laws allowed, and with due care for environmental concerns, should be able to build pipelines.

I could imagine a more radical libertarian position – such as no restriction on pipelines as long as the landowners are okay with it.  No regulation of utilities.  But with respect, we need to always be realistic.  Can’t overturn every anti-liberty item in one election cycle.  And we need some regulation of utilities because of their power over us.

The opposition is not persuasive to me – mostly global warming and fracking nonsense.  I think Gillespie’s right here.  BUT it might help Hyra:

Some are taking a hard look at Cliff Hyra, a Libertarian running for governor who opposes the pipelines. If the race between Northam and Gillespie is tight, Hyra could play the spoiler — giving the protesters more power than they seem to have now.

But with all due respect to Cliff, who I still admire every much especially for running for office and I think Hyra is clearly smart enough and able to be a good governor, I think the private sector should prevail, subject to appropriate regulation and environmental (not wacko) concerns.



About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

8 Responses to “What Should be a libertarian Response to the Pipeline Issue?”

  1. A very Green Tea Party Patriot says:

    THE pipeline, uranium mining in SW Virginia, and Dominion Energy’s powerful influence and money in Richmond are the reasons I and many friends on the right refuse to vote for the GOP ticket in November. A Republican governor ( Quinn-Gillespie Lobbyist EnRon Ed Gillespie? ) who went to TEXAS to fund raise among the wealthy oil and gas donors for his VIRGINIA campaign for Governor and a McGuire Woods Attorney General John Adams ( Dominion Energy’s lobby firm) spells ecological disaster for those of us who are conservationists and clean water advocates in Virginia.

    I’m sitting this one out in November. There is no difference between Northam and Gillespie on the pipeline issue. BUT Attorney General Mark Herring will never allow URANIUM MINING in Virginia. I can live with Herring as Attorney General. But John Adams is a sleeper cell for Dominion Power and McGuire Woods clients. How could he ever do his job based on conflicts of interest alone. Adams’ brother is Vice President of McGuire Woods Consulting? There is a reason he (Adams) is the GOP nominee without a single vote ever being cast for him. DOMINION ENERGY and the Republican arm of McGuire Woods Consulting who runs the GOP in Virginia who told AG candidate Rob Bell there would be no money for him if he ran. and that is the rest of the story.

    • Thanks for coming by Very Green Tea Party Patriot and you eloquently state the anti-Dominion version of the anti-pipeline issue. I would however recommend Hyra for Governor if you cannot vote Gillespie (or Northam) and vote to open up the political system.

      Now to the AGs race: To use the opposite of your position as a figure of speech – I cannot live with AG Herring. He refused to defend the marriage amendment and placed the state in opposition to its own laws and then refused to defend the interests of the voters in the redistricting case. Herring also went to court in a political manner over President Trump’s travel ban. I am voting for Adams in November if I have to walk through a kerosene fire to do it.

      However, I can see your side of it. Be blessed in Jesus my fellow activist. Come back again.


  2. Drain the Swamp says:

    Swamp Creatures: Who is Adams supposed to protect? the corrupt Tobacco fund? or Virginia Beach’s light rail and the bankers?

    “Most of Adams’ work in white-collar criminal defense at McGuireWoods was in other states. His brother Tray Adams is senior vice president of state government relations with McGuireWoods Consulting.”

  3. Republicans for Hyra says:

    As a lifelong resident of Louisa County, I can remember Dominion’s promise that the nuclear power plant at Lake Anna would “produce energy so cheap you wouldn’t have to meter it.”

    As a residential consumer whose electric bill runs over $350 per month, I no longer believe Ed Gillespie’s lies that he has a plan to reduce energy costs for Virginians. That’s Dominion talking.

    Listen to Trump’s Poland speech. He promised America’s excess energy production to eastern Europe so they wouldn’t be dependent on Russian oil. HE SAID THAT.

    Dominion’s Eastcoast pipeline is NOT FOR AMERICA… it is to be shipped overseas for a huge PROFIT.

    Why should Virginia’s national forests and pristine mountaintops be destroyed by Dominion Energy for the Europeans? We have subsidized their military and security for decades so they can be socialists and now we must provide their energy?

    Vote Cliff Hyra for Governor. If you care about clean water. That pipeline is an ecological disaster and everyone knows it. But the General Assembly takes Dominion’s money. And DEQ and the Water Control Board is POLITICAL.

  4. xtron says:

    what’s a person suppose to do??
    there are enough underground pipelines in this country to circle the equator 13 times…but this one is the one which will ruin the environment. most of your gasoline comes from the gulf coast thru one of 3 pipelines, which run thru the same mountains, forests and thru the same karst formations that are “too risky” to run a gas line thru. and the option is for that natural gas to be liquefied near the source and shipped thru virgina by rail and truck, clogging our highways and rail systems with hazmat cargo carriers, thousands a day. LNG is a global commodity and WILL find it’s way to market.
    then there’s the green energy question. running a pipeline thru the mountains and forests will deface them with a clear cut strip, much like the high voltage power lines that have been there for decades. we should tap more wind power…but the best sites for wind power are atop those same mountains we don’t want to deface. so we either accept a clear cut strip, or thousands od wind mills, each of which will have a power line run to it.
    if we don’t ship our excess LNG to Europe, they will have to continue to buy their power from Russia, and be dependant on a power that is not exactly friendly to the U.S.A.. I guess if they have to chose, we can hope they chose American good intentions over keeping warm in the winter, and having industry to power their economys.
    Virginia no longer uses coal to power itself. we have potions. wind…oops, see above, solar, when it becomes viable in 20 or 30 years, hydro, as soon as the enviros let us build more dams, nuclear…uh, never mind on that one…or….”and then a mirical happens”.
    so what’s a person to do??

    • Sandy Sanders

      xtron asks: “so what’s a person to do??” Support free market ideals as much as possible unless the market cannot prevent say fraud. The pipeline is part of a highly regulated industry but still private. Unless there are genuine issues with pollution, prior care by Dominion, or preservation, I say yes on the pipelines.



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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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