Council grants pipeline access

Published 10:26 pm Wednesday, September 19, 2018

City Council voted 5-0 on Wednesday to grant a license agreement to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to construct and maintain a gas pipeline within the city.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Councilmen Tim Johnson and Mike Duman recused themselves from the discussion and vote due to a conflict of interest. All three own stock in Dominion Energy.

City Council chose to grant the license agreement, because members believe the pipeline will help to bolster the economy and help alleviate the need for natural gas.

Email newsletter signup

“There is going to be a need for this whether they like it or not, and I’ll be frank. I’m going to support it,” said Councilman Roger Fawcett.

Max Bartholomew, a member of the ACP project team, said commercial businesses have been asked to curb their usage during peak times because the priority for natural gas is always given to residents.

These kinds of shortages have the ability to eliminate Suffolk as a contender for businesses.

“It is a challenge to figure out how to provide gas. When we work with gas providers, we have spent a lot of time coming up with solutions for future users,” Director of Economic Development Kevin Hughes said. “We get eliminated every time.”

Those who spoke in opposition to the pipeline, many of whom are not residents of Suffolk, believed that the city and the state should use alternatives not only for environmental reasons but also because of safety issues.

“This pipeline will create a scar across Virginia, and damage is already occurring in southwest Virginia,” said Suffolk resident Carol Johanningsmeier. “There has been a dramatic increase in significant incidents along the pipelines that coincides with the rush to build these pipelines.”

Johanningsmeier also mentioned a Facebook page, “Virginia Pipeline Violations,” that posts regularly about destruction occurring along the pipeline.

Only one other Suffolk resident, Paula Johnson, spoke during the meeting. She and her husband own two parcels of land in Suffolk, one they live on and another they farm. One of their parcels will be directly impacted by the construction of the pipeline.

“We received a letter from the ACP, and they are going to be coming through and taking a section in the middle of my property,” Johnson said. “We want to save our property, and we either accept it or leave. We love Suffolk, and we’ve been living here 11 years.”

Others who spoke out against the pipeline were members of environmental groups from different Hampton Roads cities.

The lack of Suffolk residents did not sit well with Fawcett as he made his decision.

“Most of the people here are not from Suffolk, and I don’t know if they can speak on behalf of them,” Fawcett said.

Those in opposition from around Hampton Roads cited the destruction they believe the pipeline will cause to the environment, and they pleaded to the City Council to vote no and find greener options for energy.

Council did not agree.

“We want wind and solar in the future, but this is today, and I do believe in Hampton Roads that there is a need,” Mayor Johnson said. “We have to listen to all the people that want to bring businesses here and bring many, many jobs here.”

Dominion Energy, part of the consortium building the pipeline, was pleased with the outcome of the vote.

“We are pleased that the council recognized the need, and we think it is a win-win for economic development and the environment as we have fewer carbon emissions,” said Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Harris.