Rock troubadour Carole King has added her voice to a chorus of opposition to the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but she’s playing her song directly to the head of the Richmond energy company leading the project.
King, whose 1971 “Tapestry” remains one of the best-selling albums ever produced, penned a two-page letter last month to Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman and CEO of Dominion Resources Inc., owner of a transmission subsidiary seeking to build the 550-mile natural gas pipeline across Virginia to the Atlantic coast.
In the letter, King decried the potential of the pipeline to harm Yogaville, an ecumenical spiritual retreat in Buckingham County that she has supported for decades, and called on Farrell to withdraw the request to build the pipeline.
“The income from clean, safe, renewable energy is within the grasp of Dominion Resources if you will only turn away from the pipeline,” she said in the letter, dated July 22.
Farrell has not yet responded to King, but Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle said the company is investing in solar and wind renewable energy projects.
He said the company needs to increase its use of natural gas for electricity generation by its Dominion Virginia Power subsidiary to meet growing demand for power while lowering its emissions of greenhouse gases under newly enacted federal regulations.
The proposed pipeline would carry relatively low-priced natural gas from the Marcellus Basin in West Virginia to power plants and natural gas markets in southeastern Virginia and North Carolina.
“It does lower carbon emissions, and it is highly reliable,” said Norvelle, a spokesman for Dominion Transmission Inc., the subsidiary leading a limited liability company, with Duke Energy and two natural gas distribution companies, that is asking for federal permission to build the $5 billion pipeline.
Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville released King’s letter on Thursday to draw attention to its concerns about the pipeline’s proposed route, currently within a half-mile of the ashram’s property line and a mile from the Light of Truth Universal Shrine south of the James River.
The ashram will participate in a protest on Tuesday evening, when opponents in Nelson and Buckingham counties plan a protest at the state Route 56 bridge across the James as part of “Hands Across the Land” demonstrations along the pipeline route.
The spiritual community also is concerned about the pipeline company’s plan to build a 40,645-horsepower compressor station in Buckingham at an as-yet-unspecified site that could be as near as 5 miles from Yogaville. The company recently purchased a property about 8 miles from the community but said it has not decided about where it will propose to build a compressor station.
“It was with great dismay that I learned about the proposed pipeline, and even more dismay when I learned that the preferred route of Dominion Resources would place a 42-inch wide natural gas pipeline even closer to Yogaville than previous proposals,” King wrote to Farrell.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline originally proposed a route that would have taken the pipeline south of the bridge across the James between Nelson and Buckingham at Wingina, but the company moved the route north of the bridge toward Yogaville to avoid the pending Norwood-Wingina Rural Historic District.
It is expected to propose another route variation in response to concerns by the staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about crossing a state wildlife management area near the James in Nelson. Yogaville representatives said they will meet with the company to discuss their concerns.
“We have met several times with the Yogaville community, and we will continue to do so,” Norvelle said.
King said she was a follower of Sri Swami Satchidananda for nearly a decade before he founded the spiritual community in Buckingham in 1982. She attended the dedication of the LOTUS temple in 1986.
King also expressed concerns about the project’s potential effects on public health and safety, but a prominent supporter of the pipeline said Thursday that he believes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will address the singer’s concerns in the design and construction of the project.
“I think the letter expresses a fear of the unknown,” said Barry E. DuVal, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber, a prominent member of the EnergySure Coalition of business organizations supporting the project.
“I believe it will be designed to be environmentally safe, and I believe it’s economically sound,” DuVal said.