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Plans for natural gas pipeline worry some in Nash County

A plan by Duke Energy and Virginia-based Dominion Resources to build a $5 billion natural gas pipeline through eastern North Carolina is receiving mixed feedback in the Nash County town of Red Oak.

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RED OAK, N.C. — A plan by Duke Energy and Virginia-based Dominion Resources to build a $5 billion natural gas pipeline through eastern North Carolina is receiving mixed feedback in one Nash County town, where residents are split on the move, which could be an economic boon for the area.
The companies and other partners announced earlier this month a proposal for the 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would tap into natural gas supplies in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia and stretch from West Virginia to the North Carolina-South Carolina border.

In addition to Nash, seven other North Carolina counties – Cumberland, Halifax, Johnston, Northampton, Robeson, Sampson and Wilson – would be affected by the project.

Some Red Oak residents worry that the proposed pipeline could reduce property values, threaten water supplies and pose environmental risks.

John Huffman, who owns a 20-acre plot of land in the community, is among those who are concerned.

"The issue you worry about is breaches," he said Monday. "These things blow up."

Amber Roan lives on one of the properties that's now dotted with orange flags – a sign her family has given Dominion the OK to survey their land.

"We've got 20 acres. That little strip's not going to bother us very much, I wouldn't feel like," she said. "I mean, we've got plenty of room to do whatever else."

A Dominion spokesman says the project will bring jobs, boost revenue from sales and property taxes and drive down heating costs.

The plan also has the support of governors from West Virginia, Virginia and Gov. Pat McCrory, who estimates more than 700 new jobs in the state during construction and about 50 permanent jobs once complete.

McCrory has said he thinks it could also attract more jobs and industry to the state and help areas where economic recruitment has been hindered by a lack of natural gas.

But Red Oak Commissioner Lavelle Langley says it could cost his town $1 million to tap into the pipeline, and he questions how it will benefit the community.

"It doesn't help us a bit. It's not going to bring us any jobs – not in this county," Langley said. "I wouldn't think (it would) because there's going to be outside contractors putting it in."

Dominion has planned an information open house for Sept. 22 at Rose Hill Plantation in Nashville.

Public meetings are also planned in Pembroke on Sept. 22, Fayetteville and Weldon on Sept. 23, and Smithfield on Sept. 25.

Gas is being relied upon to generate more of the nation's electricity in recent years because new domestic supplies have lowered its price and because natural gas burns cleaner than coal.

It does, however, have environmental drawbacks. Experts say that when gas leaks or is otherwise released directly into the atmosphere it heats the planet much faster than carbon dioxide. Fracking, the drilling technique that has led to increased U.S. supplies, has raised concerns about water use, water contamination and other issues.

The pipeline requires approval, which could come in mid-2016, from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state regulatory commissions. It could start operating in 2018.


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