By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
When Dominion Energy announced July 5 that it was stopping the six-year project to build the 600-mile $8 billion-dollar Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), pipeline opponents were jubilant.
Environmental advocates, and civil rights groups like the NAACP and SCLC were celebrating a hard-fought victory over the powerful utility.
The coalition of opponents used the courts and various regulatory barriers to wear the powerful utility giant down and kill the project.
Opponents said the 24-inch-high pressure gas pipeline buried underground, posed a danger to residents living in several communities along the route.
Many of those communities and neighborhoods were inhabited by African Americans of varying incomes, thus environmental racism was the bulwark of the legal and regulatory opposition.
Residents of Chesapeake’s Georgetown, Sunrise Hills, Georgetown, Holly Point, and Holly Glenn
neighborhoods are relieved; but, they are casting a wary eye at the stretch of pipeline buried near their homes months ago.
The residents formed a coalition called Georgetown Neighbors Against the Pipeline (GNATP). They waged an effort to get the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to deny a permit for the ACP three years ago.
Initially, they failed, but eventually, the SCC did deny the permit for the pipeline through their areas, due to environmental racism and the fear of gas leaking and a blast destroying their homes.
Now they hope Dominion Energy would uproot the abandoned pipeline running near their properties and thereby end the potential environmental and physical threats it poses.
he ACP would have run from West Virginia, through Virginia, into Hampton Roads into North Carolina, to supply natural gas to Dominion Energy Customers.
Portions of the ACP near the Chesapeake communities are part of a 9-mile connector buried throughout this region and heading to North Carolina.
The connector starts at a Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) pumping station near the Young Terrace Public Housing in downtown Norfolk.
VNG is a partner in the enterprise.
The pipeline flows eastward down Virginia Beach Boulevard, then south on Tidewater Drive past two other public housing communities.
It continues southward into Norfolk’s Berkley Community, and on into the four Chesapeake communities.
Dominion sold its natural gas transmission and storage business to Berkshire Hathaway Energy for almost $10 billion. Warren Buffett is a major player in this outfit.
GNATP hope the new owners of the stretch pipeline through their communities will not devise any new plans to use it.
“We are keeping an eye on it now and hope this is the end to it,” said James Hampton, who was a key leader and organizer of GNATP when they found out the pipeline was coming to their area three years ago.
“It is good they stopped it, and it was a big loss for them,” said Hampton. “But we now feel relieved the threat to our property and lives is over.”
Hampton lives on Rock Creek Drive and the pipeline is about 18 feet from his and 37 other residences’ backdoors in Georgetown as well as nearby Sunrise Hill and Holly Glenn.
He said the pipeline runs along the right-a-way of property owned by Dominion Energy which erected a tall fence to conceal it from the homeowners.
Owners of Holly Point Apartments allowed the pipeline to be buried directly on that property and accepted money for the utility to do so. Hampton said the apartment complex’s owners will not have to repay the money to the utility.
Hampton said even if the pipeline near their homes is repurposed, the SCC recently denied the utilities the ability to use it due to environmental racism claims that proponents have used to block in other areas of the state.
“I am thankful and elated that not one ounce of gas went through that pipeline near our homes,” said Ethel Mitchell, a member of the GNATP.
Mitchell said initially the utility has planned to place the pipeline down a route along Bainbridge Boulevard.
“But there were too many homes owned by white people in that area,” said Mitchell, who lives on a stretch of Rock Creek farther down from where the pipeline is buried. “So, they decided to bury it near our homes.”
“We sent a letter to the City Council, but they wrote back and said we may as well get used to it,” Mitchell said. “So, we organized and fought. They did not care about the impact and potential damage because this is a mostly Black area.”
Greg Buppert, senior attorney for the Southern Environment Law Center, was stunned by the announcement that the project was dead.
“Wow!” he said when he heard the news on Sunday. “Wow!”
“This is a victory for all the communities that were in the path of this risky and unnecessary project,” Buppert said later in a statement by the law center.
Out in the western part of Virginia, opponents of a 54,000-plus horsepower compression pump station almost blocked its construction in Buckingham County, which was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War.
It was to be built on 70 acres of land which sits near two Black churches.
But the pastor of a church nearby said Dominion weakened opposition by paying poor Black and White
residents to offset any damage the ACP would cause to their properties.