Navigating the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Crowds share views at public hearings

Laura Ashley Lamm—
Atlantic Coast Pipeline opponents hold up signs during a hearing Thursday at Nash Community Colleges Brown Auditorium in Rocky Mount. (Laura Ashley Lamm - North State Journal)

ROCKY MOUNT — In the coming weeks, the N.C. Division of Water Resources will make a major decision on a proposed gas line that could affect one-third of the entire state.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is proposing to install approximately 600 miles of line running through West Virginia, Virginia and the length of North Carolina. On its quest to seek the state’s approval for water quality certification, the ACP has received more backlash than support from residents across eastern North Carolina this week.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has plans to construct one compressor station and install approximately 186 miles of a 36-inch transition pipeline in Northampton, Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnson, Sampson, Cumberland and Robeson counties.

The proposed project will permanently impact 766 linear feet of jurisdictional streams and 0.80 acres of jurisdictional wetlands, and temporarily impact 35,951 linear feet of jurisdictional streams and 454 acres of jurisdictional wetlands.

Officials with the N.C. Division of Water Resources spent the last week obtaining feedback from the public on the proposed pipeline. A public hearing in Fayetteville was held at the beginning of the week followed by Thursday evening’s hearing at Nash Community College’s Brown Auditorium in Rocky Mount.

Officials were at the hearing to receive comments and answer questions regarding the pipelines application for a state water quality certification and buffer authorization as required by the federal Clean Water Act and state riparian buffer rules.

“I have a family farm that will be directly affected by the pipeline,” said Barbara Exum of Wilson County. “This is a threat to our vital water resources, it affects people of color, and the gas is simply not needed.”

Citing environmental concerns, including the possible contamination of the county’s water source, Exum said simply, “This is clearly a for-profit venture by private partners. Don’t sell N.C. residents short; reject the project.”

The public hearing focused on the water quality permitting aspect of the proposed pipeline project. To comply with regulations, project developers must obtain a 401 certification, which is an approval from the state for any impacts the project may have on streams, riparian buffers and wetlands.

The proposed $5.1 billion, 42-inch gas pipeline will run about 600 miles starting in Harrison County, W. Va., traveling southeast through Virginia and through eastern North Carolina until its final destination in Robeson County.

The pipeline is a joint venture between Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and Southern Company Gas. Dominion Resources serves as the chief stakeholder.

Exum’s sentiments were matched by the majority of the crowds at the public hearings, with each affected county well represented.

“I’m from Northhampton County where we have been a dumping ground over and over again,” said Belinda Joyner. “The pipeline route extends through our low-income, poverty-stricken communities of color.”

Joyner said she went door-to-door to talk with residents on the route and found they were “unaware” of the pipeline and its potential impact.

While there were plenty of signs, T-shirts and speeches mentioning the “unneeded, costly and dangerous” effects of the pipeline toward the rivers, wetlands, farmlands and overall natural environment to the eastern part of the state, there were also those present supporting the “economic growth, development and jobs” the pipeline could potentially bring.

“These are the best of times, the potential for economic growth is greater than it has ever been in my lifetime,” said Tom Batts, former chairman of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership. “We are close to a huge economic boom, and if we get the Atlantic Coast Pipeline we have a chance to provide jobs.”

Jones County Commissioner and land owner Chad Steward praised the ACP for working with those along the pipeline’s route.

“I have two family farms along the route and appropriately settled with ACP to which I was satisfied,” said Steward. “After working with Atlantic Coast, I don’t think this pipeline will affect us negatively.”

Public comments are open through Aug. 19 and may be submitted in writing via application. More information and the application can be found at The state will make a final decision on Sept. 19.