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Battles still rage over gas pipeline

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Monday, March 26, 2018

The fight over an interstate natural gas pipeline though Nash County has moved from the state capital to federal court.

Republican lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper have been feuding over control of a multimillion-dollar fund promised by Atlantic Coast Pipeline builders meant to mitigate environmental impacts and improve economies in affected counties.

Pipeline builders and landowners were in U.S. District Court last week in Elizabeth City. The builders' complaint alleged immediate access is needed to 15 properties in order to meet a tree-felling deadline to protect migratory birds.

Construction is slated for this spring, said Aaron Ruby, media relations manager for Dominion Energy, which is building the pipeline with Duke Energy.

“Fortunately, we were able to reach agreements with three of the landowners outside of the courts,” Ruby said. “The court granted access in 10 of the cases, and in two cases the court instructed us to continue working with the landowners to reach an agreement.”

One of the two holdouts, Nash County landowner Marvin Winstead, testified about his experiences with pipeline builders — including misrepresentations made by company representatives and surveyors being on his property without permission.

Winstead's testimony reflects what other landowners have told the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, said Therese Vick, coordinator for the league's North Carolina Healthy Sustainable Communities Campaign.

“The ACP and their representatives have come on their property without permission and have misrepresented the project,” Vick said. “This ruling demonstrates that landowners should continue to stand up, fight back and not give up.”

Ruby said it was never the preference of the pipeline builders to use the courts.

“We would have preferred to reach mutual agreements with these landowners, as we’ve done with more than 80 percent of landowners along the route,” Ruby said. “We’ve made every attempt to do so. This was an absolute last resort that we took after exhausting every other option.”

Ruby said the court’s decision to grant access to most of the properties is an important step forward for the project and allows builders to prepare for construction in the spring, Ruby said.

“For the other two cases, we’ll continue making every attempt to reach an agreement,” Ruby said. “We know the huge contribution these landowners are making to help build public infrastructure for the public good. It will bring cleaner electricity, lower energy costs and more economic opportunity to communities across North Carolina. We couldn’t achieve that without the contribution of these landowners, and they deserve our recognition for that.”

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