By: Michael Campbell, News Editor
11:52 a.m. | August 3, 2017
DINWIDDIE – The venue for a meeting regarding the future of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been changed just two weeks before it was slated to take place in Dinwiddie.
According to officials with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the location of the August 14 public hearing has been moved from its planned site at Dinwiddie High School to Alberta and the Southside Virginia Community College’s gymnasium, located in the 100 block of Campus Drive.
The meeting is still scheduled to last from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The 600-mile underground pipeline would provide natural gas transmission for multiple public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina and would be developed, built, and operated by Atlantic, a company formed by four regionally based energy companies; Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas.
Documents from ACP officials detail the path the underground infrastructure would take through Virginia, with the pipeline entering Virginia in Highland County through its border with West Virginia. The pipeline would then navigate due south and east through a number of western counties before moving through the northern half of Nottoway County.
The ACP would then enter Dinwiddie through its western border with Nottoway and turn southward toward Brunswick near Rawlings before heading into Greensville to a compressor station on the Virginia-North Carolina border.
At that compressor station, the pipeline would divert in two directions, with piping traveling south into North Carolina before terminating just northeast of Lumberton near the South Carolina border and a second line moving through the southern portions of Southampton County, through western and northern Suffolk before ending in Chesapeake.
The project has garnered support and opposition from Virginia leaders, along with communities and landowners along the proposed 600-mile project scope.
During a 2014 speech to the state’s joint money committees, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe saw the ACP as a key part of his efforts to diversify the Commonwealth’s economic footprint through his “New Virginia Economy” initiative.
“If we are going to build the new Virginia economy, we must invest in our workforce, in savvy economic development strategies, in education, and in infrastructure — including broadband, renewables, energy networks like the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline, and a diversified transportation grid,” he remarked.
Additionally, the pipeline carries the support of a number of state house representatives, including Del. Roslyn Tyler of the 75th District, which includes parts of Dinwiddie, Brunswick, and Greensville, who are all slated to have the proposed pipeline move through their areas.
“The Atlantic Coast pipeline has the potential to create thousands of good jobs across the Commonwealth, including in Southside rural communities that need them,” she said in a 2014 statement. “I am thrilled that this project will help all of us work together to build a new Virginia economy while expanding our use of natural gas, which has half the carbon emissions of coal.”
In July, the ACP project received a positive nod from federal regulators who concluded that the pipeline could “be built safely and with minimal long-term impacts to the environment.”
In a statement, Dominion Energy’s Vice President of Engineering and Construction Leslie Hartz went on to say that officials with the pipeline have “taken unprecedented steps to protect environmental resources and minimize impacts on landowners.”
“We’ve made more than 300 route adjustments to avoid environmentally sensitive areas and protect important features of individual properties,” Hartz said. “We’ve adjusted the route to avoid wetlands, public and private drinking water sources, wildlife habitats, sensitive karst terrain, and many other environmental resources.”
While she did say “some impacts on the environment and landowners are unavoidable with any infrastructure project,” Hartz said the report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC “demonstrates that we’ve taken all necessary steps to minimize those impacts and balance them with the urgent public need for the project.”
According to ACP, that “urgent public need” stems from “a need for additional natural gas infrastructure to better serve existing and growing customer demand, improve service reliability and allow for customer growth and economic development” in both Virginia and North Carolina.
While the federal report indicates “minimal long-term impacts” from the construction and operation of the ACP, opponents of the pipeline see the FERC report as deficient.
Speaking to online publication Think Progress, Oil Change International research analyst Kelly Trout said FERC’s final report “grossly undercounts climate pollution by omitting fracking emissions, downplaying methane leakage, and wrongly assuming gas will replace coal when it increasingly displaces clean energy.”
In a report from Oil Change International dated February 2017, officials with the organization estimate the project will produce “total annual greenhouse gas emissions” of 67.5 metric tons or the “emissions equivalent of 20 coal plants or 14 million passenger vehicles” annually.
Their report goes on further to say they believe “the increasing supply of natural gas in the United States is in direct competition with clean energy.”
“As the cost of clean energy continues to decline, it competes with both new and existing gas and coal generation capacity,” Oil Change International’s report says. “This clearly indicates that in the absence of new gas supply, it is clean energy – not coal or more expensive imported gas – that would be implemented in its place.”
For Dominion Energy, one of the first questions on their frequently asked questions page is regarding the company’s focus on renewable energy, such as solar and wind sources. In their response, the company said they are “actively pursuing renewable energy investments, including solar, wind and renewable biomass,” noting their offshore wind project in the Atlantic Ocean is “one of the most advanced wind projects in the United States.”
“Renewable energy is a growing and important part of a balanced energy portfolio for Dominion Energy, but it isn’t available around the clock,” the company continued. “Natural gas is a clean, low cost, abundant resource, making it the best around the clock option to complement our growing portfolio of renewable energy in Virginia and North Carolina.”
Dominion also said this project will “provide reliable backup power during peak times when less sun or wind aren’t available.”
Additionally, ACP officials noted in an April 27 update that “More than 25 city, town, and county governments all along the route have publicly endorsed the project.”
“They’ve spoken very powerfully about the need for this infrastructure to provide cleaner energy and affordable home heating in their communities, rebuild their local economies and strengthen the region’s energy security,” Dominion Energy’s president Dinan Leopold said.
According to Dominion Energy’s data, the project will support over 17,000 jobs during construction and 2,200 jobs during the pipeline’s operation.
Along with the expected job creation, the ACP, per Atlantic’s data, will create “$377 million a year in energy cost savings” and “$28 million a year in new local tax revenue” as ACP will pay property taxes on “physical assets [they] would install underground” along the 600-mile route, but “the property owner would still be responsible for paying property taxes on the land about the pipeline.”
Atlantic would also pay property taxes on the compressor stations proposed in Lewis County, WV; Buckingham County, VA and Northampton County, NC.
“The ACP Project would also improve gas supply for Mid-Atlantic markets, thereby promoting price stability and enhancing economic opportunity,” they said in the FAQ section. “Additionally, the ACP would help the project partners meet new air emission regulations while continuing to meet their obligation to supply electricity or natural gas to their customers at reasonable rates.”
As the project continues to move forward, Dinwiddie, Brunswick, and other communities will be able to make their thoughts known during a public hearing on the pipeline at Southside Virginia Community College’s gymnasium on August 14.
The gymnasium is located at 109 Campus Drive in Alberta and will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.