Virginia Voters Back Pipeline by Nearly Two-to-One

Question: Do you support or oppose building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?

Registered voters in Virginia favor construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) by an almost two-to-one margin over those who oppose it, according to a poll released by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) today. Fifty-four percent support the controversial project strongly or somewhat, while 31% oppose it.

Eighty-three percent of voters say they consider “energy issues” to be very or somewhat important in the upcoming gubernatorial election. Forty-eight percent say that are more likely to support a candidate who “favors more infrastructure projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline” while 27% say they would more likely prefer a candidate opposed to the pipeline.

The poll of 500 Virginia voters was commissioned by the CEA, a non-profit, non-partisan trade association for the purpose of “providing reliable, affordable energy for consumers.” The organization strongly supports the pipeline. Dominion Energy, the managing partner of the ACP, is a member. (See the questions and results of the Virginia polling here.)

Clearly, the results are favorable to the ACP, which has encountered stiff resistance from environmentalists and landowners along the pipeline route. In rolling out the poll to the media, CEA made no secret of the fact that the timing is designed to stiffen the backs of gubernatorial candidates who favor the project. Tom Perriello has made opposition to the pipeline a major issue in a tightly contested race for the Democratic Party nomination against Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam.

In past posts I have noted biases, both pro and con, in polls that framed questions to elicit answers from respondents that their sponsors were looking for. This poll shows no obvious sign of such of bias. Here are the two key questions:

I’d like to talk now about energy issues. Have you heard or read anything about a proposed natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina, or is that not something you have heard or read about?

And:

As you may know, there is a proposal to build a 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline to bring natural gas from West Virginia to public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?

The polling sample seems reasonably representative of the Virginia population: 74% white, 16% black, 36% Democrat, 27% Republican, 23% conservative, 16% liberal. The margin of error due to sample size is +/-4.4%. The polls results do not provide a geographic breakdown.

While supporting the ACP, voters gave even stronger endorsement of “renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind power” — with 69% strongly in favor, and 20% somewhat in factor. Weaker majorities favored expanding offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters, and generating electricity using coal-fired plants.

Dominion has been criticized for its influence in state politics during this campaign season. Another questions asked: “As you may know, Dominion is one of the companies that has proposed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” Seventy-eight percent said that Dominion’s involvement would have no influence on their support, either way. Ten percent responded they would be more likely to back the pipeline; 8% said they would be more likely to oppose it.

Remarkably, despite intensive media coverage of the pipeline controversy, 47% of respondents replied that they had not heard of the ACP.

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27 responses to “Virginia Voters Back Pipeline by Nearly Two-to-One

  1. Yet compared to two years ago the support for the pipeline is eroding. The erosion is not huge but it does show the anti-pipeline and anti-fossil fuel agenda is having an impact. The other energy questions also showed erosion (or progress, the other side would say.) I suspect the cross tabs on Question 13, asking whether support for pipeline projects impacts a voting decision, would be illuminating. D vs. R, by age, etc.

    Not a margin any candidate should take to the bank, but the headline to me was Northam doing better than in some other recent published polls.

    Why should you be surprised that almost half of Virginia registered voters have not heard of the ACP? Do you still suffer under the illusion that people read newspapers, watch TV or actually ingest any real news at all? When it makes the Daily Show or becomes a skit on SNL, another traunch of voters will notice….

  2. Oh dear …more too wild stuff
    Here is what the “non-profit, non-partisan” Consumer Energy Alliance has to say about pipelines…. http://pipeline.consumerenergyalliance.org/new-cea-report-warns-no-shale-gas-pipelines-no-electricity/

    New CEA Report Warns: No Shale Gas Pipelines, No Electricity

    “Earlier this week the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) released a disturbing report on the U.S. oil and gas pipeline network and its relationship to our growing domestic energy needs. The report, titled “Families, Communities and Finances: The Consequences of Denying Critical Pipeline Infrastructure”, finds that if legislators and regulators reject proposals for new pipelines and pipeline expansions, we are in danger of losing one-third (1/3) of our electric generation capacity nationwide.”

    “… No, we won’t necessarily be without electricity. What it means is that electric rates will soar ….. It is time to stop diddling around and get pipeline projects approved–before it’s too late…”

    They also appear to have written lots of articles bashing Governor Cuomo who used his power to get NY to redesign their utility system and to reject overbuilding old fossil infrastructure, like pipelines. NY’s new system will have a healthy, flexible grid that will support utilities and other generators as they decarbonize the state and build renewables in place of that “lost 1/3 of generating capacity”.

    I can only hope that our newspapers will print energy news that challenges the old fossil line and that sinking, flooding Norfolk will vote their climate interest this time around.

  3. Oh, the stuff of fake news. The cited poll was sponsored and released by the Consumer Energy Alliance, a nationwide coalition of energy companies of which Dominion and Duke are members. Readers of a blog like this one purport themselves to hold dear individual land rights, and not be in favor of the use of eminent domain for ANY reason, unlike the more liberal among us who might see fit to apply eminent domain to projects of municipal benefit. So tell me, if it’s not ok for the government to expropriate your land for municipal benefit, how is it ok for the government to take it for the purpose of corporate profiteering?

  4. I would hardly call the wording of the survey unbiased! If someone knew nothing about the ACP–as 47% those surveyed did not–it indeed sounds utterly innocuous. It makes no reference to the actual route and the communities, mountain ranges, national forests, Appalachian Trail, & Blue Ridge Parkway, private property, etc. in the way. It does not address the question of need nor the intended abuse of eminent domain by a private, for-profit corporation. Certainly nothing about countless stream and river crossings and destruction of habitat of threatened and endangered species. I suspect that the survey results would have been quite different if those surveyed had a clue.

    And I disagree that media coverage has been ‘intensive’. Only in the impacted region would I call coverage “intensive”. I’m sure the survey didn’t touch those counties or any nearby!

    Look no farther than the sponsors and advertisers to the right of the blog post to understand what interests BR serves.

  5. Bacon has no shame! Hey… how about letting the Sierra Club commission an “unbiased” poll?

  6. How about a link to the firm that did the poll? what other kinds of polls do they do?

    • How about a link to the poll itself? … Which I provide.

      But just to show that I’m willing to go the extra mile, here’s a link to the polling firm, Hickman Analytics.

      I know your first instinct will be to check the list of clients, look for some right-wing nutjob or some hopelessly compromised corporation, and pronounce everything Hickman does as discredited. I’ve saved you the trouble of looking:

      Political clients
      Advocacy clients

      Looks like the firm covers a wide ideological and partisan spectrum.

  7. Well.. here’s a pretty comprehensive list of pollers.. and ranked.. and I do not see these guys:

    https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/pollster-ratings/

    I do find a few of their poll results online and everyone of those polls focuses on pipelines, coal, offshore drilling, etc…

  8. trust but verify. would like to see a second poll by a well recognized group that has a reputation of being objective in their polling.

    my suspects are that if you asked 100 people on the street to tell you what the ACP is…some specifics and the route 99 could not tell you much of anything.

    I could come up with some equally generalized questions that lean “green” and and likely get favorable answers:

    ” If solar would lower the cost of your electric bill would you support building more soar”?

    “Do you support the use of eminent domain to build a private pipeline?

    “Do you think burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming”?

    😉

  9. Let’s make all of our infrastructure location decisions based on polls….Frankly it would probably cut years off the permitting process. There would of course be no more permits at all.

    The premise behind the poll, that ill-informed or barely-informed public opinion should drive the decision, is a very bad hill for the energy companies to make their stand on, especially if they continue to do a such a pathetic job of making their argument. I’m not putting down the people polled – most of them simply do not care that much and have not taken much time to learn about this. Both sides are resorting to emotion. If the poll had come back 80-20 favorable, the project should stand or fall for other reasons.

  10. Pingback: More than half of Virginia Voters Support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – Ed Gillespie

  11. here’s an example of the poll going the other way:

    http://chesapeakeclimate.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Gov-McAuliffe-Survey-Results-Sep-16.pdf

    we came back from NC today and drove 29 through Nelson… and a few weeks ago I was over near Burnsville, Va and there are quite a few “No Pipeline” signs … and today I saw a “Pro Pipeline” sign.

    I still think Dominion was/is perceived as going into those areas and throwing it’s weight around and behaving like a corporate bully.. and they riled people up…

    and I do wonder what would have happened if Dominion had offered each county – some access to gas.. for an industrial site or just to have a retailer make natural gas available to farms and residences.. if they’d not done better

    Without question, pipelines are the safest way to move gas but at every juncture… Dominion seems to relish jabbing people.. they pick bad routes through the mountains.. when they could come through the gaps… property owners report less than friendly “negotiations” .. and in general Dominion seems to not know or care how they come across to folks.

    Not just the ACP.. they exhibit the same behavior on coal ash and Jamestown.

    they need a swift kick in their corporate keister … in my view.

  12. The other project, the Mountain Valley project, is making gas available for local use along its route, and that has created higher levels of local support mixed in with the local opposition. And of course Dominion has nothing to do with that one, yet it remains highly controversial. It seems to me the Mountain Valley route goes closer to more population (New River Valley, Roanoke Valley). The ACP route has less impact on populated areas. Any pipeline from the gas fields to the east coast is going to pass through mountains. You can’t blame Dominion for that, Larry! If D wasn’t part of this, some other investors would be. I prefer that that a major Virginia company be playing a role in this.

    • Steve Haner, Since I currently live within a mile of the proposed MVP route and just north of the anticipated compressor station (while the ACP bisects our over 100 year old business just 4 miles after the compressor station), and I have been actively involved in both pipeline processes, I can assure you that both use the same horrible strategies. MVP affected folks think the majority of state decision makers are unaware of the situation along the MVP. However, the regional news media fully cover the MVP – both sides. The Richmond paper has not been very active reporting to decision makers about the ACP.
      Local government is more actively engaged along most of the MVP in Virginia. The comparison of what Montgomery County, where the MVP compressor station will be, and Buckingham County, host of the ACP compressor station, have done to ensure the county gets the best deal and the landowners and community are protected is unreal. Buckingham has accepted the company line on everything, the county attorney will not even discuss issues with citizens and even public comment at Board of Supervisor meetings is contentious. Montgomery has held public meetings on the MVP, politely and generously accepts public comment at BOS meetings, the county attorney is available to citizens, and the county funded responses to FERC on the proposal by a DC based attorney with extensive FERC experience.
      MVP is far less politically astute about Virginia so it has not greased the skids like Dominion has. It started the process later, which gave citizens along the MVP the opportunity to learn from the ACP and led to more objections to surveying. The MVP is routed through territory where many university administrators and faculty own property. The ACP is primarily routed through some of the poorest and least educated areas of Virginia. Buckingham people still consider it bad manners to speak publicly against leadership decisions while Montgomery people consider raising their concerns part of the process and necessary. The ACP routing was a choice made to reduce opposition.
      Since the MVP is not primarily owned by a Virginia company, it has involved a Virginia gas company, and promises access to gas to it, via the Montgomery county site that will ultimately host the compressor station (although it is not included in the initial plan, landowners have been approached to sell land for that use). It also found a locality interested in access, Franklin. Unless users materialize, that second tap will not occur. Along the ACP, Dominion has executed a non-public memorandum of understanding with a Buckingham business that has long desired access to natural gas. It is clear that unless a large user takes advantage of the offer to buy land and locate near the existing business, an area that is not served by even 4 lane road, much less interstate, that tap will never be developed. Since the county has hosted the Transco pipeline for over 50 years and it is located closer to rail, it’s difficult to anticipate that a company will locate near the ACP in Buckingham. Even today with still no distribution system in the county, a new user could count on cheaper costs from the existing Transco line. In other words, new jobs are not guaranteed along either the MVP or the ACCP and neither offers any “deals” that make it likely that communities along their route will use any of the gas. These are designed to be transmission pipelines and they do not want to deal with a lot of “off ramps” along their routes.

  13. @Steve – there ARE mountain GAPs… and most of them have rail which tells you they are not steep slopes. There ARE much less steep and difficult paths through the mountains but no doubt add to costs…

    In fact, on the Panda article – it said that Panda in Loudoun county had access to a Dominion pipeline… where is the route of that pipeline?

    I do not see it on this map but the news reports say Dominion has a pipeline there:

    The Mountain Valley is indeed also getting opposition and some support but that pipeline is going to feed existing transco infrastructure along with some expansions of it…

    If you believe some folks we ALREADY HAVE sufficient capacity but assume we do not – do we need TWO new ones? And if both of these are private for-profit pipelines why are they using eminent domain in the first place? If Dominion had a process like the Rockies Express pipeline – 3 times as long where they ONLY used ED in less than 5% of the cases, I’d be happy.

    My comment about Dominion’s behavior goes beyond the pipeline. It’s a pattern for several of their initiatives.. they just seem to be unable to meet with others and work to find compromises. It’s their way or the highway.

    VDOT used to be like this. They were like that on US 460 thinking they could bully the COE to cave in on a wetlands permit.. and they did not and the project crashed.

    • The route change that is now putting the ACP adjacent to Wintergreen takes advantage of just such a gap, Larry. No rail crossing but the road crosses there. It was chosen to create the least possible direct impact on the Parkway (there will be a tunnel below the ridge) but by activating the wealthy and well-connected in the resort community it was hardly a public relations gain.

      Yet I will note the giant craft brewing complex at the bottom of the hill is going forward with a massive growth plan, so long term they think they will remain viable.

      I don’t care about the polling and I don’t care about any other sins by any of the companies involved. Those are the emotional appeals. This is an economic and energy project and should be evaluated on that basis. On that basis I think at least one of them will get built.

      • Steve, The craft brewing complex has been sold to one of the huge international beverage companies, so it’s not likely to continue to be what we think of as a craft brewing company.

        Eminent Domain rules need to be changed so that instead of coming at landowners with threats builders approach landowners with an attitude of trying to find a win/win and sharing the spoils. Since we know most of the gas will be exported, no matter how much they swear it won’t, it is not fair for these companies to use eminent domain. It’s also not fair that they essentially take over land – for example we won’t even be able to park farm equipment on it, so it’s hard to say we won’t know it’s there – and pay a measly one time fee that makes no attempt to reimburse the landowner for forthcoming expenses and loss of value – and nothing for living with the risks imposed.

    • Larry, Dominion has distribution lines in the area Panda is looking at. Transco is its transmission provider. If the ACP is built, Dominion will be able to push gas from its ACP line to the Transco line at the Buckingham Compressor Station so it provides the gas to its distribution system.

  14. My problem is not that BR is publishing a survey taken by a very partisan, more fossil fuel outfit. My problem is with the headline that states its conclusions flatly as fact. If it had been a Sierra Club survey, I am sure Jim would have added, “Green Group Says.”

    The problem here is with presentation. The post continues the usual caveats but they somehow get lost.

    • This site is now part of the company PR effort, so the headline is not surprising. I still think the real headline is “Energy-friendly polling group finds eroding support for all fossil fuel projects.” The pipelines, the idea of off-shore drilling, coal, etc. All show lower levels of support after just two years. And if they did cherry pick the sample…..hmmmm. (I doubt they did.)

  15. If you’re going to use ED – then the price of the gas should be regulated… like you would any business that has been granted government and monopoly powers.

    I think it is outrageous that Dominion is getting the right-of-way for forced-sale prices and they then are going to market the gas to the highest bidders including themselves where ratepayers will pay for whatever the market price is of the gas – in essence – getting around the SCC rules about the maximum percentage of profit they get for electricity. They are ADDING to that rate of return by having ratepayers pay additionally because the non-price-controlled gas becomes embedded in the cost of the electricity as a “price-adjustment” that is passed along to consumers.

    this should never happen … Dominion should never have pursued this and the regulators should never allow it.

    This is why vertically integrated companies were originally broken up.

    • “If you’re going to use ED – then the price of the gas should be regulated…”

      Larry, I might be wrong but my understanding is that FERC very much does regulate the price charged to use the pipeline. Think of it as a toll road – it is very much regulated. The value of the goods are not going to regulated, just the tolls to use the road (or the pipeline). I’m sure you will now change your opinion….

      • @Steve – if the price of the gas is going to be regulated.. then that’s a step better… but maybe explain more about how regulation does not mean the value of the goods..

  16. As a researcher, I fail to see the words “randomly selected” describing the participants in the survey and I also don’t see a comparison of the demographics of the participants with the demographics of the citizens of Virginia – much less representative of the population most affected by the pipeline. It is hard to believe that the sample used is representative of the low income, elderly, predominantly female population affected by the pipeline. There is no reported confidence level for the accuracy of the findings.

    The wording of the items is clearly seeking support for the pipeline, and many survey respondents take their cues from that wording. There are no items that address the additional pollution, the risk of explosion, limitations on use of the land hosting the pipeline, or any of the other negative aspects of the pipeline. Only an astute, relatively sophisticated about this issue person who is unexpectedly asked such a series of questions would immediately recognize that bias is built in the survey. Those who do realize it is biased are likely to only do so when considering the experience after it is complete.

    Supporters of the pipelines have sought every way possible to avoid publicity except for the positive sound bites they tout, and in the most affected areas, to avoid even public meetings. In my home community, for example, Dominion scheduled the initial required open house at the same hours as the local historical society’s annual fundraiser/ meeting, effectively limiting participation. The only other public meeting held by the company over the last three years was at night February 15, after the largest snow storm of the winter of 2016, even though schools had been closed and several of us repeatedly asked that it be rescheduled. No scoping or DEIS response meetings were held in the county that will host the huge compressor station and thus faces the biggest risks/losses. That community is not covered by the Richmond media any more (a few years ago media limited coverage to Cumberland county, jettisoning long covered Buckingham) and there is a 35 year Dominion employee on the Board of Supervisors who has been heavily involved with decisions, only finally recusing himself from public decisions in October 2016 – and always present. The primary local newspaper (published twice weekly) has editorialized multiple times in support of the pipeline and only accepts very short letters to the editor or op eds, making it difficult for those with concerns about the pipeline to adequately present the balancing negative information and make the case about the problems. When negative information is reported, the company is always quoted as refuting that information. When information such as this study is reported, opponents positions are rarely included.

    Since BR is financially supported by Dominion, we can’t expect a balanced treatment of the pipeline issue. Sadly, many news sources are today touting these survey results as dependable facts without presenting the balancing information. These days there are few reporters and they have limited time to truly learn about the issues and to seek necessary balancing information.

    I’ve become very disillusioned about my country and democracy as this pipeline process has unfolded. The ways the industry games the system and puts individual landowners at a disadvantage are against the values I thought our country held most dear. Many aspects of this process and our public discourse must be changed if we expect anyone to believe in democracy and trust the outcomes of government processes.

  17. re: ” Since BR is financially supported by Dominion, we can’t expect a balanced treatment of the pipeline issue. Sadly, many news sources are today touting these survey results as dependable facts without presenting the balancing information.”

    well apparently the thought is that because biased survey’s are presented… that it’s okay for BR to present one also… heck everybody’s doing it!

    😉

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