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Matt Yonka column: Atlantic Coast Pipeline will put Virginia back to work
BUILD THE PIPELINE?

Matt Yonka column: Atlantic Coast Pipeline will put Virginia back to work

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pro-Atlantic Coast Pipeline rally

Matt Yonka (back to camera) addresses a pro-Atlantic Coast Pipeline rally at Capitol Square in Richmond in January.

Three years ago I attended a briefing on a major infrastructure project throughout the mid-Atlantic region. For decades politicians have talked about rebuilding American manufacturing and creating well-paying jobs for the middle class. But too often, it’s all talk and no action. Many of these types get scared away from major infrastructure projects because inaccurate fears are spread by a small minority of opposition. I’ve reviewed the plans and benefits of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and — three years later — I still believe this is the right project for Virginia to safely rebuild America’s manufacturing and create well-paying jobs for our people.

As president of the Virginia State Building & Construction Trades Council, I represent thousands of hardworking men and women across Virginia. We wholeheartedly support this pipeline, and we believe it is critical to rebuilding our middle class and bringing back our manufacturing jobs. Not only will it provide cleaner electricity and home heating to millions of our fellow citizens, it will also put thousands of Virginians back to work. By connecting our region to the most affordable and abundant supply of domestic energy in our nation, the pipeline will lower energy bills for all Virginians and fuel the resurgence of Virginia manufacturing.

Construction of the pipeline is estimated to generate nearly 8,800 jobs in Virginia. There would be a highly trained, experienced, and skilled labor force working on this project — pipefitters, welders, industrial equipment operators who have built thousands of projects like this, all of which have been built safely.

The skilled men and women who work with me on projects throughout Virginia and across the country know dedication, hard work, and getting projects done correctly the first time. Opponents may believe this project can’t be constructed safely — but they’re wrong. Thousands of miles of pipeline already run safely through Virginia and throughout the country, through similar terrain. Today there are more than 4,000 miles of pipeline that run under our communities safely. Until three years ago, you likely didn’t know they existed. The ACP will be no different.

We want the project to be safe so that none of our team is injured, but our families and friends live in these communities too. As one who served in the military, this is what we call watching one’s back. We work together to get the project done safely for our communities.

I’m not alone in knowing this project can be done safely. The lead federal permitting agency for the pipeline recently released its final environmental report for the project and reached some very favorable conclusions. The environmental impacts will be minimal and temporary — like pretty much all infrastructure projects — and all necessary precautions will be in place to protect public safety.

Although it’s largely ignored by the media, an unprecedented coalition of more than 200 businesses, labor unions, and economic development organizations from across Virginia support the pipeline project. Together, these businesses and organizations represent tens of thousands of hardworking Virginians who truly believe this pipeline is going to be an economic game-changer for our commonwealth.

Let’s stop arguing over this project and start rebuilding America. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will do just that and will be built safely. We simply cannot let this opportunity pass us by because of falsehoods from those who have no professional knowledge of pipeline construction.

Matt Yonka is president of the Virginia State Building & Construction Trades Council, the Virginia affiliate of the AFL-CIO, a national trade union. Contact him at yonkamm@gmail.com.

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