Local opposition to the pipeline — which cuts across distinctions of race, class, education, occupation, and political affiliation — has been fierce. Experts have testified that it is a redundant addition to an already adequate infrastructure. It will create only a handful of new jobs, will make it impossible for proposed new businesses to open, will do immeasurable damage to our land, and will subject those in its blast zone to the high risk of a devastating explosion. In the U.S. there are about eight gas-pipeline explosions a month.
These are serious practical objections, but there is also a key issue of legitimate governance here. Since there is no provision for our “public use” of the gas being transported, what could possibly justify the exercise of eminent domain? Nothing. This is about money, pure and simple. Dominion Energy is the largest and most influential corporation in the Commonwealth and donates heavily to officials from both parties. It also gets a FERC-guaranteed 14 percent return on equity. Ratepayers will bear the risk of building the pipeline and will pay above-market rates for the privilege.
Again, Kelo legitimized the seizure of private property by local governments in the hope of getting increased tax revenues. Obviously, that was bad enough. But the proposed pipeline in Virginia and similar projects elsewhere — including, as President Trump noted during the campaign, the Keystone Pipeline beloved by so many conservatives — push beyond Kelo.