Opponents pan impacts of proposed gas pipeline


People attend a public hearing on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Thursday at Nash Community College.


Staff Writer

Friday, July 21, 2017

A throng of people mostly opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline packed the Brown Auditorium on Thursday at Nash Community College.

Several people wore clothing and held up signs that showed their strong opposition to the 42-inch gas pipeline, which will run about 600 miles starting in Harrison County, W.Va., and running through Eastern North Carolina, including Nash County. The public hearing at NCC was dealing with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s looking to receive assurance of a “401 Water Quality Certificate.”

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has applied to the N.C. Division of Water Resources for a 401 Water Quality Certification and Buffer Authorization for its plan to construct one compressor station and install 186 miles of transmission pipeline and accessories in Northhampton, Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland and Robeson counties. The Division of Water Resources must take final action on the application before Sept. 18.

The state certificate is a requirement for the proposed $5 billion project to get approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. More than 60 people signed up to give their opinion on the pipeline. Wilson resident Barbara Exum, who was among a small group who held a press conference earlier in the day, was the first speaker to talk against the pipeline and requested that the Division of Water Resources deny the permit.

Exum said her family farm is in the direct path of the proposed pipeline and expressed how the pipeline will impact the black and brown communities. Reports from the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League said one of the counties impacted by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be Northampton County, with a population that is 58 percent African-American and has a much lower average income thant the state as a whole. 

Northampton resident Belinda Joyner said her county is being used as a sacrificial area for industry. She added it’s no accident that the huge compressor station to push the natural gas for another 180-plus miles through North Carolina would be built in Nortampton County and could cause future health problems for citizens.

“Independent studies show that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline sees us as poor, uneducated and not able to fight back,” Exum said. “They see our lives as low risks to their business practices.”

Tom Betts, a former chairman of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, was one of the few people in the audience who stood up and supported the pipeline. Betts was received with a mixture of cheers and boos from the people in attendance.

“We do have poor and undeserved communities in our areas, but what we need more than anything is jobs,” Betts said. “The Twin Counties is an area that is quite fortunate because we have many tools for economic development. But the one thing we’re missing is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will provide the natural gas supply that will encourage every user of this clean and efficient fuel to locate in our area. Also, it will provide a substantial source of revenue, which will form taxes that will assist funding like education and public safety.”