HINTON — With ongoing litigation over the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) in both state and federal courts, the Summers County Commission says it will hold a public meeting about the projects next month.

The meeting will be on the stress added to the community in the form of infrastructure damages, added load to fire and emergency services, hospitals, health department and other infrastructure.

The meeting will be March 15 at 6 p.m. at the Memorial Building.

"By all accounts, MVP is happening," said local attorney Elise Keaton who believes the meeting is a way for the community to be proactive.

Keaton, who proposed the public meeting, told the commission that just Wednesday morning, MVP had been granted permission to begin working on a spread in Monroe County and also shared that a zoning dispute between the pipeline entities and the Fayette County Commission has not stopped work in that county.

According to the attorney, the pipeline entities have been using the federal Natural Gas Act to trump local authorities.

As proposed, the meeting will consist of the heads of different local authorities such as the county commission, the sheriff, the Hinton Police chief, the local health department, a representative from the West Virginia Division of Highways and a representative from the pipeline group if they agree.

While damage to local infrastructure by heavy industrial traffic is the most obvious cause for concern to Keaton, she also shared her concerns with an influx of workers.

"There will be an influx of transient workers with a lot of cash," she said. "Along with the positive benefits of them spending that money in our community in legitimate businesses, there are also some negative aspects as well."

With the invitation to the pipeline entities, Keaton told the commission that she hopes to learn how negative impacts were addressed in other communities.

"The point is basically, let's get everybody on the same page of what it looks like," Keaton said. "Then allow the agencies to have conversations with the public, with the county within their own structures as to what they may or may not do to prepare for it."

While interested in the meeting itself, the commission also raised the question on legal protections in the case of infrastructure damages and if and how the county will be able to hold pipeline entities responsible.

In the recent past, the commission passed industrial construction ordinances that, while they would not be able to halt construction, equate to the county collecting some permitting fees.

"We need to have some kind of performance bonds so that we know they are going to put the property back in a decent condition," said Commission President Bill Lightner.

While Keaton questioned whether the pipeline entities would approve of such measures, she told the commission that a public meeting will get the community thinking about what needs to be done in the near future.

"It's my sense that most of the folks we are going to ask to this table haven't given a tremendous amount of thought to the negative stuff," she said. "It's an educational opportunity to raise the issues."

The attorney also confirmed that local hotels, resorts and campgrounds have already received calls reserving a large portion of their properties in blocks.

— Email: mcombs@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @mattcombsRH

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