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Pipeline meeting today in Jackson

JACKSON – Despite facing legal battles in Virginia, Dominion Power is proceeding with plans to construct a 550-mile natural gas pipeline across three states.

Locally, the general public will be able to learn more about the project during an open meeting planned from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today (Thursday) at the Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson.

The current route of the pipeline is projected to cross into North Carolina near Pleasant Hill in Northampton County and proceed southward along a route just east of US 301. It will cross into Halifax County through the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge, downstream from Weldon.

A lateral extension is planned from the Virginia-North Carolina border, near Pleasant Hill, eastward across Southampton County and the City of Suffolk before ending in Chesapeake.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) will originate in Harrison County, West Virginia (tapping into the Utica and Marcellus shale basins in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania) and end in Lumberton, NC. In North Carolina, the pipeline will be constructed parallel to I-95 and US 301.

Dominion Power, along with three other major energy companies, is moving forward with the $4.5 million project. It has the capacity to handle 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

While there has been little opposition, to date, in North Carolina, the project is facing legal issues in Virginia. There, Dominion is suing dozens of the hundreds of Virginia landowners who are refusing to allow the company to survey for the pipeline.

Peter Swartz, who studies energy policy and environmental issues at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, said the benefits of the pipeline to the state seem to outweigh the costs.

“Resistance is coming from those who are bearing the costs but aren’t getting much in the way of the benefits – western Virginia, the area near the Shenandoah Valley,” Swartz said in an interview with North Carolina News Service. “That is obviously a beautiful area and it’s not going to be enhanced by having a pipeline through it.”

Swartz said the natural gas the pipeline would carry could stabilize electricity costs, provide an alternative to coal plants and improve the economy in the eastern part of North Carolina. But its fate may come down to the outcome of the legal battle in Virginia, where Swartz said landowners are putting up a good fight.

“They have every reason to fight it,” he said. “Even if they don’t think they’re going to ultimately prevail, landowners will then get greater compensation for allowing the pipeline, and they’ll probably also get greater expense put on trying to make sure that the chance of damage is as small as possible.”

According to Dominion, laws in North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia allow the company to access private land to survey.