I am delighted to welcome the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to the county that I was born and raised in, and have chosen to spend my life in, which is Robeson County, along with ACP’s cargo of clean-burning natural gas, that will add to my county’s economic toolbox. This piece of infrastructure will complete the economic puzzle — electricity, water, sewer and rail — needed to accommodate large manufacturing industries that will provide much needed jobs to a Tier One/Tobacco & Textile Dependent County that has seen its share of job losses over the years.
As many in Eastern North Carolina know, Dominion of Richmond, Va., together with Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources — parent company of Virginia Natural Gas — are planning the ACP, a 550-mile-long underground pipe originating in West Virginia and ending in Robeson County.
The pipeline will enter North Carolina in Northampton County, travel southwesterly across Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland and finally to Robeson. The pipeline is expected to be in service by late 2018.
There are many positive aspects of a 36-inch diameter pipe with an initial daily capacity of 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas coming to the region, but none greater than its economic boost. Almost all the counties to be touched by the ACP sorely need the huge financial upside presented by the pipeline.
The Dominion operation expects to pay $7.7 million per year in property taxes to the host counties, including more than $890,000 annually to Robeson County in exchange for the 50-foot right of way across 22 miles.
During construction throughout 2017 and most of 2018, about 4,000 jobs will be created in the state; the construction will also generate about $680 million in economic activity and $1.1 million in annual tax revenues. Once in operation, the ACP will require 925 full-time jobs and will generate $11.7 in annual economic stimulus.
We also cannot overlook the energy cost savings for homes and businesses once the pipeline is in operation, a figure that Dominion says could reach $134 million per year. That’s a bunch of new dollars going into our pockets.
I am impressed that Dominion has already conducted scores of meetings with landowners and municipal professionals who will be affected by the construction in addition to answering all environmental impact studies required by federal and state regulators.
As a matter of full disclosure, my employer, a fourth generation family business that has been a part of Robeson County for decades, will negotiate a fair value, and receive a payment from Dominion for the use of a right of way across some of our property. Dominion also pledges to return the property to its original state after construction, allowing us to use the land in any way we choose.
On the important safety side, you only have to look at the more than 2.5 million miles of natural gas pipeline already in use in the United States. Few problems have surfaced and gas transport by underground pipe has proven to be safer than carrying it on highways, railroad tracks and waterways.
I have full confidence in Dominion’s capability to bury its pipe under 3 feet and continuously inspect it. Once in operation, the pipeline’s safety regulation will be the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Transportation. I suspect those people are pretty tough.
As for our environment, I have little concern about the ACP. The proposed route is being studied now to ensure that every consideration is given to the proper treatment of an area’s heritage and its environment, especially water.
Environmental activists will be pleased that the ACP will carry gas that produces half the pollution as coal when burned for energy. The access to natural gas will also move industries, both existing and hoped for, into compliance with federal regulations regarding cleaner air.
Natural gas pipelines are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including a determination of need and final approval for construction. State environmental protection agencies are given blanket opportunity for input.
My support is based on many reasons, from the infusion of capital, a hope for much more corporate investment in Eastern North Carolina, to adding to our county’s tax base and budget to improve our schools, security and public services. We need to embrace this great opportunity to pump economic energy into some of the state’s neediest counties.
Murchison “Bo” Biggs is a Lumberton businessman and a member of the Golden LEAF Foundation board of directors.