Commissioners Hear Concerns About Atlantic Coast Pipeline

A group of Johnston County landowners are upset the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) will be dissecting their land and farms as it makes it way from shale basins in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia 550-miles south before ending in Robeson County, NC.

The $5 billion project will cross 8 North Carolina counties, including Johnston County, as it runs just east of the I-95 corridor. Land owners would be given one-time financial compensation for the loss of the property but the utility easement would be off limits for any future development. 

Upset property owners filled the board room of Monday’s Johnston County Commissioner’s meeting expressing frustration, concern and raising questions about safety and property values.

Francine Stephenson of Clayton said the ACP gas transmission line could decrease property values and cause erosion issues.

Teresa Rose from Four Oaks discusses concerns about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline with Johnston County Commissioners. WTSB Photo
Teresa Rose from Four Oaks discusses concerns about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline with Johnston County Commissioners. WTSB Photo

Teresa Rose of Four Oaks said the pipeline will cross two separate parcels she owns. Rose said farm land is not as productive after a pipeline is buried under the soil.  Rose said the pipeline will be buried 48 inches deep but farmers will not be able to drive their tractors and other heavy equipment across the pipeline.

Rose said the potential blast radius from a natural gas line of this size is up to 1,000 feet on each side of the line, leaving many homes and businesses, even the Meadow School within the zone.
Rose expressed concern that corporate profits were being put before the safety and health of landowners in Johnston and other counties.

James Johnson of LaCross, Virginia, grew up in Four Oaks. Johnson said he has tried to contact officials with the state and the pipeline but no one would return his calls to answer questions. Johnson owns land in Johnston County next to a wetland area. He expressed concern the pipeline could cause erosion and sedement issues in the wetland area. Johnson said he also wanted to know how the pipeline would cross the Neuse River in Johnston County.

Johnson said there is no upside to a pipeline easement on your property, saying “fear” impacts the public’s buying patterns. He also raised concerns property insurance rates could increase near a pipeline and mortgage companies may not loan money on homes near the pipeline.  

Commissioner Chad Stewart of Four Oaks said the group raised grave concerns. Stewart, whose own personal property will be impacted by the pipeline, said the group raised valid concerns but pointed out it was a federal project and the county had little control. Stewart said he didn’t understand why the ACP could not use existing right-of-ways already in existance. Stewart said so far he has not seen any local benefit of the pipeline.  “It’s a for profit company. It serves the masses. I understand that. But a for profit company to advance financially and use my land to do it, I have a large problem with it.”

Jimmy Casey said his farm was impacted by an unrelated natural gas pipeline five years ago. The area disturbed by the pipeline, Casey said, is still not producing a harvest. He said he was told it would take 20 years to get a decent crop over the pipeline.   

Commissioner Allen Mims of Clayton is having a portion of his farm in Clayton condemned for a Town of Clayton wastewater treatment line. “You all have my sympathy. My land is being condemned for a sewer line.”

Commissioner Chairman Tony Braswell asked County Manager Rick Hester to contact officials with the ACP to schedule a meeting with concerns citizens as soon as possible.  In an October 9, 2014 letter to Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and Dominion Resources, commissioner pledged their support for the project but ask for assurance they companies would work with affected property owners and their families and treat them with respect and fairness throughout the process.       

“I learned some things this morning I did not know,” said Commissioner Cooke Pope after listening to the citizens comments.