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Public Meetings in North Carolina Over Controversial Pipeline

PHOTO: Some landowners are refusing to allow Dominion to survey for the 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would run through North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Dominion holds public meetings on the project this week. Photo credit: Shannonpatrick17/Flickr.
PHOTO: Some landowners are refusing to allow Dominion to survey for the 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would run through North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Dominion holds public meetings on the project this week. Photo credit: Shannonpatrick17/Flickr.
January 7, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. - Public meetings are under way this week in North Carolina on a proposed project that already is spurring a legal battle in Virginia.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be 550 miles long and carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

Despite environmental concerns, said economics professor Peter Schwarz, who studies energy policy and environmental issues at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, 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," he said. "That is obviously a beautiful area and it's not going to be enhanced by having a pipeline through it."

Dominion is suing dozens of the hundreds of Virginia landowners who are refusing to allow the company to survey for the pipeline. Landowners in North Carolina have been less resistant, with only a few refusals. Dominion is leading public meetings about the project today in Smithfield and Thursday in Jackson.

Schwarz 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 Schwarz 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.

The meetings will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. today at Johnston Community College in Smithfield and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NC