Group says citizens aren’t aware of pipeline project

Published 4:33 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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A proposed 48-mile expansion project bringing a new gas pipeline to route through the Hampton Roads and Southeast areas of Virginia — including the cities of Suffolk and Chesapeake, as well as Isle of Wight and Southampton counties — faces opposition led by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network went door-to-door in Suffolk Saturday, March 4 to raise awareness on the Virginia Reliability Project., CCAN Hampton Roads organizer Charles Brown II said there are many people who do not know about the pipeline proposal or reasons for the group’s opposition.

“There’s an existing pipeline that goes through Virginia. This project is a collaboration between two companies — TC Energy, which is based in Canada, and Columbian Gas,” Brown said. “What they want to do is basically, rip out 49 miles of existing pipeline that go throughout Virginia and replace it with a pipeline that is double the diameter which would pump out four times the methane gas through this pipeline.”

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The reason for their opposition, he said, is there are about 13 schools that are within two miles of the construction of this pipeline. It is also proposed to go through the Great Dismal Swamp, the Albert G. Horton Memorial Veterans Cemetery and a lot of low income communities.

“In a lot of these environmental issues, just as I’ve seen just to track record these companies, they tend to go through lower income areas or Black and Brown communities and we are disproportionately affected,” Brown said. “Anything that would be on that side of it, I am always going to be on the opposing side.”

CE&H Heritage Civic League Executive President Kelly Hengler also spoke out against the project and believes there is a lack of a public feedback session from the Suffolk community.

“The foundational opposition has been and remains the absence of ‘on the ground’ public information and outreach in Suffolk,” Hengler said. “The City of Suffolk has been working with the application for over a year, and not one public outreach session has occurred in Suffolk, only one in Isle of Wight, and one in Chesapeake.”

She said Virginia relies on consensus of an informed community, which has not happened on VRP.

“There are numerous factors for public consideration, and Suffolk has an ongoing and entrenched issue of proceeding with intensive dedication to applications on projects without including information or collaboration with the true stakeholders, those who live and vote in Suffolk,” Hengler said.

On TC Energy’s website pointing to the needs and benefits of the pipeline, it states the project would replace two current segments of the Columbia Gas Transmission (TCO) pipeline to “ensure reliable and abundant natural gas supply” and also with the demand for natural gas rising, “these updates will improve natural gas reliability and help meet the current and future needs of the Hampton Roads region.” For the economic impact within the City of Suffolk, the project would bring a “one-time pulse” of economic activity such as producing 854 jobs and $133.2 million in economic output. 

Brown believes these numbers will not be seen here.

“I think we’ve seen time and time again where one of the first things that these big companies say when they are listing the benefits of a project happening or coming is the increase in jobs. I think they know that that’s a good tagline,” Brown said. “Sometimes these jobs come into fruition, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the jobs are said almost as if they are permanent jobs and sometimes the jobs go away as soon as the project is done and those same people may possibly be out of work.” 

He also made note of issues he believes outweigh the listed positives.

“If the world is already trending towards renewable energy, why is that not being looked into? That’s number one. Two, I don’t know if the pros offset the cons of this,” Brown said. “Behind Hillpoint Elementary School, is the actual pipeline. It’s about 300 feet from the elementary school.”

Across the street from this is an area CCAN was canvassing for that day. He said this raises concerns that in the process of replacing the pipeline there could be an issue with methane gas.

“What happens if something happens where there is a disaster? Are you guys going to make sure that everything is the way it needs to be?” Brown said.

Along with noise, air, water pollution, he also addressed the lack of awareness of the project.

“If all of these pros are so good, why are they doing the bare minimum of toting them? Part of their mandate is they’re supposed to, especially if this is supposed to be so good right?” Brown said. “Why are they not raising the flag and saying ‘Hey we’re doing this project, these are all the things that are happening,’” 

He said he believes the people in the area that could be affected should know about the project.

“We’re knocking on doors, like we did Saturday [March 4] when we canvassed, that are right across the street from the pipeline and they don’t even know that this project is happening,” Brown said. “There are people that are across the street from where the pipeline construction would partially be taking place and they don’t even know that the project is happening. And some of the people that do know the project is happening don’t have all the facts, good or bad.”

They said there are several ways for people to voice concerns about the project.

“Locally, reach out to City Council with a simple request for public outreach sessions along the pipeline route at, now, for the Virginia Reliability Project,” said Hengler. “Contact neighbors and those who have children in the Schools along the route, including Hillpoint Elementary in Suffolk. Inform those you know about VRP, and the named waterbodies with listed proposed impacts: Blackwater River, Dismal Swamp and Canal, Lake Drummond, Nansemond River, Elizabeth River, and the Meherrin River.”

Brown said they are considering holding a town hall meeting within the next four weeks to help get out the information on the project.

“We want to have a legitimate conversation with residents about their concerns, their wants, their needs, their desires in reference to this project,” he said. “I think a lot could be done if information is put out and if we listen and not just lecture. I am really big on that.”

The citizen comment deadline on the project is March 31. Comments should be sent in writing by either email to or by standard mail to 803 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510-1011. Mail should be addressed to the Norfolk District, Corps of Engineers (Attn: CENAO-WRR).

For more information on the Virginia Reliability Project, go to or

For more information on the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, go to


Editor’s note: Updated 4th passage at 11:08 a.m., Thursday, March 23 to reflect correct title.