PEMBROKE — A group of about 40 people walked Thursday from Red Springs to Pembroke to show their opposition to a pipeline.
Some began their trek on March 4 at the the Virginia state line to oppose the planned 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The protesters have environmental and economic reasons for opposing the natural gas pipeline that would run from West Virginia to Robeson County. Local leaders say the pipeline and the energy it will carry would mean only good things for the local economy.
“It’s not needed,” said Pembroke resident Charly Lowry, who is affiliated with EcoRobeson. “We need to work on other ways to generate clean energy.”
“There is no demand for the gas from this pipeline here, and there is no evidence it will create jobs in Robeson County,” said Robbie Goins, also from Pembroke. “We, the ratepayers, will be burdened with the cost of this project.”
The pipeline will be financed and owned by Dominion Resources, Duke Energy and its subsidiary Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company. Construction costs are expected to be between $4.5 billion and $5 billion.
Federal regulatory hurdles remain to be cleared before construction can begin later this year. President Trump’s administration has thrown its support behind the project.
“This is about education,” said Greg Yost, of the Alliance to Protect Our People and Places Where We Live. “People need to get in touch with their local elected officials.”
Stopping the pipeline will be an uphill battle, Yost said.
Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s economic development director, listed groups supporting the pipeline: the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, Robeson County Municipal Association, Committee of 100 and local chambers of commerce.
“When I receive an inquiry from an industry, 90 percent of them require natural gas,” Cummings said. “Sanderson Farms, Pepsi and Trinity Foods, new industry in Robeson County, all use natural gas.
“The pipeline will create jobs and strengthen our tax base and our economy. Gas moves the economy.”
Lower-cost natural gas is much in demand for replacing coal as fuel for electric generation, but also pollutes, perhaps more than coal, Yost said. Methane gas, which is far more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide, is escaping from fracking sites and power plants at rates far higher than industry and regulators admit, he said.
More often than not, poor communities bear the environmental cost of projects like this, Goins said. Taking land for the project through the use of eminent domain has been controversial elsewhere, although not in Robeson County.
The Walk to Protect People and Places was comprised of college students and older people from across the state. The march will move to Laurinburg and to Hamlet on Saturday, where an addition to the pipeline will serve a new Duke Energy power plant.
The marchers were escorted by the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office. March support also came from the Center for Community Action, a nonprofit group based in Lumberton that is focused on community organizing.
The protesters wrapped up their Pembroke stay with a public teach-in that included two short documentary films titled “Won’t Pipe Down,” about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and “Water Warriors.”