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Boyette calls for ‘transparency and truth’ on Atlantic Coast Pipeline

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One Wilson County commissioner says those residents who live in the proposed pathway of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline here won’t be able to access natural gas directly from it because there is no infrastructure in place to distribute it.

“All residents can make the best decisions for them and their families when they have been properly informed,” Rob Boyette said in a prepared statement at a county commissioner’s meeting earlier this week.

His comments came after several landowners in the western part of Wilson County spoke out against the pipeline’s construction during the public comment section of Monday’s meeting. And he believes that two specific issues need to be addressed before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decides on the pipeline’s future.

“Statements made by government officials, pipeline owners and their marketing agents that the pipeline will spread natural gas throughout our county and region are not true,” Boyette continued. “In western Wilson County, no infrastructure is in place to distribute gas. Furthermore, no funding is available for such distribution, and no private or public utility has existing plans to create distribution in this area.”

The proposed high-pressure pipeline would run from Harrison County, West Virginia, to Robeson County in North Carolina. Some 12 miles of the 35-inch steel pipeline could be built across the western side of Wilson County from a point north of Sims to a point southwest of Buckhorn crossroads.

Dominion Power, Duke Energy, Southern Gas and Piedmont Gas are the companies in partnership who are proposing to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

‘THERE ARE NO UNDERGROUND LINES’

There will be three taps along the pipeline in North Carolina — Johnston, Cumberland and Robeson counties.

Boyette told The Wilson Times this week that whether Wilson has a tap here or not is a moot point. Because if you don’t have the distribution system to get it, then it can’t be used.

“A tap is like a portal,” he explained. “You have to have something public or private in place (infrastructure) to pull that gas off that line. But if you don’t have the line and the companies to build the facilities to pull that gas off the pipeline, that gas is just coming through the county and not staying here.”

He said it’s simple. There are no gas lines or distribution network in the western part of Wilson County that includes the Buckhorn and Rock Ridge communities.

Barbara Exum, who lives on Exum Road and is against the pipeline believes there are no long-term benefits to the project. She said she and her neighbors currently fill their above ground tanks with propane to heat their homes.

“There are no underground lines,” she said.

Exum believes some area residents have been misinformed and truly do believe that they will be able to directly access natural gas. But she said they can’t possibly access that gas because they have nothing to access it with.

‘TRANSPARENCY AND TRUTH’

Boyette also said in a statement Monday that research indicates the “possibility that the quality of materials and methods used in rural areas may be different from that used in urban or more developed areas.

“I believe that rural citizens in our county deserve the same quality protection as any other residents,” he said. “Safety and security for our citizens must not be comprised for the sake of producing a cheaper line.”

Boyette said while he respects landowners’ rights to make their own decision regarding the future of their property, he believes there needs to be more “transparency and truth” when it comes to information about what the pipeline will actually do for county residents here.

DUKE ENERGY

Tammie McGee of Duke Energy said Wednesday that Piedmont Natural Gas has 2,000 customers in Wilson County.

“In addition to its investment in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Piedmont is investing an additional $190 million into its North Carolina distribution system,” McGee said. “Presently, this distribution network does not include the western most part of Wilson County, and there are no immediate plans to extend gas service to this part of the county.”

She said decisions to enlarge distribution networks are based on a number of factors, including system reliability, population density, projected use, business needs and economic development.

“State regulators that oversee utilities require that investment dollars be prudently spent to benefit the greatest number of customers,” she said. “With the Atlantic Coast Pipeline bringing new supplies of natural gas to the area, we do anticipate development and growth along the line, which may generate opportunities to extend natural gas distribution networks in the future.” She also said “anyone receiving electric service from Duke Energy or gas service through Piedmont Natural Gas or Wilson Energy will have access to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s resource through these organizations’ extensive distribution networks, which are already in place bringing gas to Wilson’s citizens today.”

‘UNNECESSARY RISKS’

Wilson County landowners, including Celena and Robert Bissette, aired their concerns over the proposed pipeline at the county commissioner’s meeting Monday.

The Bissettes, who live in the Rock Ridge community, own a 26-acre tract of forest land that could be bisected by the pipeline.

“There are facts about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that are being played down in order to push the pipeline through,” Celena Bissette said. The Bissettes and others who are against the pipeline construction have many concerns including environmental impact, safety risks including potential explosions and water quality. They are also concerned what impact it could have on property valuations.

“The installation of the pipeline poses an unnecessary risk to public safety and a negative impact on the environment,” Celena Bissette told commissioners. “Many residents along the proposed pipeline route depend on well water, which comes from ground water. And a breach of the pipeline could contaminate ground water supply for many of our residents.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its draft environmental impact statement in December that contended that no long-term impacts on groundwater are “anticipated” from construction or operation of the pipeline. The statement also contends that “surface water and wetland impacts would effectively be minimized or mitigated” if commission recommendations were implemented. That commission also contends that the pipeline wouldn’t have a “negative impact on public safety.”

Robert Bissette said they shouldn’t take any of this at face value. The Bissettes cited alternate reports by Synapse Energy Economics that were commissioned by advocates and the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates. One of those reports also contends that additional interstate natural gas pipelines like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are not needed and that the “anticipated natural gas supply capacity on existing and upgraded infrastructure is sufficient to meet maximum natural gas demand from 2017 to 2030.” Those who are against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will hold a rally today at 4:30 p.m., at Buckhorn United Methodist Church, located at the intersection N.C. 42 West and N.C. 581

olivia@wilsontimes.com | 265-7879

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