Public gets to weigh in on proposed pipeline in Robeson

FAYETTEVILLE — Residents of Robeson and surrounding counties concerned with the development of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline can be heard at a public hearing on Thursday.

The “Peoples’ Hearing,” sponsored by Eco Robeson, a coalition of nonprofit agencies and individuals concerned with local environmental issues, is sponsoring the event, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Fayetteville East Regional Library at 4809 Clinton Road in Fayetteville.

‘The Peoples’ Hearing will be an opportunity for residents along the pipeline route to speak out about their concerns about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” said Erika Faircloth, energy and water justice organizer for the Durham and Asheville-based nonprofit Clean Water for North Carolina. “Concerned residents from all eight counties where the pipeline will pass through are invited to attend.”

Clean Water for North Carolina helped to establish Eco Robeson.

The proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline will transport natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina. It will pass through North Hampton, Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson and Cumberland counties before ending in Robeson County near Pembroke.

Pipeline construction is estimated to cost about $5 billion, employ a large number of workers during the construction period, and provide natural gas to Eastern North Carolina, where supporters say it is needed for economic development.

Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Electric are working on the project. Dominion Resources, based in Richmond, Va., is building the pipeline and would oversee its operations.

Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for the pipeline, said Tuesday that the permit needed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to move ahead with construction has not yet been received.

“Since September 2015 when we applied for the permit we have been working with federal and state agencies to provide all the information needed to complete the environmental review and answer all the questions needed to help complete the public record,” Ruby said. “… This has been the most thorough and exhaustive environmental review process for a project of this kind that I have ever seen.”

Ruby said that approval of the project is expected by early 2017 with construction to begin in the summer of 2017. Construction is expected to be complete and the pipeline operating by the end of 2018.

Opponents of the pipeline have expressed concerns about the safety of transporting natural gas by pipeline, dangers to human and animal health, and potential harm to farms, wetlands and other sensitive areas.

The Rev. Mac Legerton, executive director of the Center for Community Action in Lumberton, has said there are enough natural gas pipelines nationwide and that emphasis should be placed on developing renewable energy sources.

Ruby disagrees with Legerton, noting that more natural gas is needed in this region to replace coal-operated generating plants that utility companies are phasing out.

“Utility companies are being required by federal regulators to significantly reduce carbon levels by 2030, he said. “And even if there is more of a use of reusable energy sources, such as solar and wind, you still have to have a backup energy source for those sources of energy.”

Ruby also said that natural gas is the source of energy favored by industries.

“You need to have natural gas in an area if you expect to recruit businesses and industries, ” he said. “It’s important for economic development.”

Faircloth said in a statement that the pipeline will cross several streams, rivers and wetlands, and during construction could cause sediment pollution. Methane and contaminant gases released from pipelines and compressor stations have been known to cause dizziness, nausea and nosebleeds, she said.

By Bob Shiles

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Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

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