Compressor Stations or Public Health-Which One is More Important?

Private Land, Natural Gas or Renewable Energy?

In Buckingham County, Virginia, Dominion Natural Gas Company is attempting to install natural gas compressor stations every 50 to 80sq. miles over a span of 550sq. miles. Residents and supporters of Buckingham County are rallying against Dominion officials who are surveying on private land, along with their proposed compressor stations (Miessler). While each stakeholder in the situation has different values and reasons why they are for or against the compressor stations, the private land owners are the most vocal group.

According to the Wagner Act, an act established in 1935 originally for preventing the legal retaliation against workers for forming collective bargaining units or going on strike, the act allows companies like Dominion to survey on private land (Keyserling). Through the National Labor Relations Board, established through the Wagner Act, even if Dominion officials are refused to enter onto private land, they can go through another notification process and then eventually gain admission. Residents of this area, and especially private land owners whose property is under the possibility of housing a compressor station, are attempting to repeal this part of the Wagner Act. Other stakeholders include Friends of Nelson County, advocates for keeping private property away from for-profit enterprises (Miessler), and Republican delegate, Joseph R. Yost. Unfortunately, Yost explains that proposed repeals to this section of the Wagner Act is not new. It has been taken to the Senate in the past, and failed.

While private property rights are one reason for the residents of Buckingham Counties’ anger, the potential environmental and health threats are even more daunting. Compressor pipelines propel natural gas through pipes at speeds ranging from 40-100mph (Bose13). The health risks are endless, from the constant noise of the compressor systems to the potential for gas leaks. Residents risk damage to their liver and kidneys, lungs, cardiovascular system, nervous system, brain, and blood cells. Even those working near or building compressor stations are also susceptible to these risks, as well as a laundry list of other potential ailments (Bose24).

Not just health symptom wise, compressor stations have been known to explode and cause not only significant fires, but subsequent compressor systems down the line to blow up as well (Bose 20). As well as possible fires, the potential for natural gas leaks brings up the question of radioactivity (Howard). Radioactivity levels will vary from compressor station to compressor station, but unless there are sufficient measuring systems in place, workers and residents may not know just how much exposure they are getting until it is too late.

Another stake holder in the area is Drew Gallagher, a field organizer for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Gallagher approaches the issue from an economic standpoint, realizing that not only is this an environmental issue, but a possible $17 billion investment, that would come from Virginia taxpayers. Gallagher believes that a smarter, more cost-effective and sustainable investment would be solar and wind energy (Miessler). However, Dominion is a natural gas company and their priorities are making money through natural gas, not solar or wind power.

Dominion is possibly the second highest stakeholder in the equation. If the Wagner Act is repealed, they have the potential to not be allowed to enter private lands, denying them the right to build compressor stations, let alone survey the area. Even if the Wagner Act is not repealed, they have institutions coming at them from all sides against the stations. Climate Action Network organizers like Drew Gallagher who are worried about the economic standpoint, could easily convince Virginia residents that dangerous natural gas stations are not a sound investment, and a waste of their money. Buckingham country residents and private land owners have only to research compressor stations to realize the serious health risks, and environmentalists could use this moment of resistance to swoop in and suggest better environmental initiatives. Though there are stakeholders with different reasons for their agendas, it boils down to the massive non-renewable energy company, and those who are ultimately being affected.

Kate Meeks

5 February 2016

Response 1- Current Events


Bose, Kimberley. “Summary on Compressor Stations and Health Impacts.” (n.d.): n. pag. 25 Feb. 2015. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.

Hudzik, Thomas B., Jessicca Harris, and Eric Howard. “Environmental Assessment for the Edgemoor Compressor Station Project (CP14-97).” Environmental Assessment for the Edgemoor Compressor Station Project (CP14-97). Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Oct. 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

Keyserling, Leyon H. “Wagner Act: Its Origin and Current Significance 29 George Washington Law Review 1960-1961.” Wagner Act: Its Origin and Current Significance 29 George Washington Law Review 1960-1961. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

Miessler, James, and Brian Williams. “The Tidewater News.” Protesters Oppose Atlantic Coast Pipeline. N.p., 22 Jan. 2016. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

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