Smithfield Herald

Four Oaks mayor testifies in Washington on natural gas bill

In this screen capture from a video, Four Oaks Mayor Linwood Parker testifies before Congress.
In this screen capture from a video, Four Oaks Mayor Linwood Parker testifies before Congress. U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATiVES

When the U.S House of Representatives wanted the perspective of a small-town mayor, it called Linwood Parker up from Four Oaks.

On May 20, Parker testified before the House subcommittee on energy and mineral resources. He spoke about how access to natural gas would benefit the economies of towns across Eastern North Carolina.

Parker pointed to the Four Oaks Business Park, where Becton, Dickinson and Co. opened a 720,000-square-foot distribution center in 2012. No other companies have joined the medical-device maker in the park, the mayor said, and that has had a lot to do with the lack of natural gas. Since the price of the fuel has dropped in recent years, Parker said, many manufacturers have scratched Four Oaks off their list of potential places to build.

“In Four Oaks, we hope to be able to not only ship it, we hope to be able to make it and ship it,” Parker told the representatives. “To be able to do that we’re going to need natural gas.”

The feds took note of Parker because he spoke out at all three meetings the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held in North Carolina about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The $5 billion project would run 550 miles from West Virginia, through Virginia, crossing through Johnston County before ending in Lumberton.

That led Rep. Doug Lamborn, the Colorado Republican who chairs the subcommittee on energy and mineral resources, to invite Parker to share his opinions on the National Energy Security Corridors Act. The bill would designate corridors in the eastern United States that pipeline projects could take through federal parkland. Currently, Parker said, it takes an act of Congress every time a pipeline needs to cross federally-owned land.

“They’re just trying to simplify the process,” he said of the bill. “It’s a bipartisan bill, and I think they’re moving toward having a solution.”

Congress has created 10 corridors in the western United States, Parker said, and that has made natural gas prices significantly lower in the region. In particular, Parker said, the bill would ease passage through the Appalachian Mountains.

In addition to Parker, the committee heard testimony from Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Union; Jim Moore, vice president of Williams Gas Pipelines; Gregory Buppert, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center; and Tim Spisak, senior adviser for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The hearing lasted about 90 minutes, and a video may be viewed online at bit.ly/parker-on-energy. The website also includes written copies of the statements Parker and others gave the committee.

In his remarks to the congressmen, Parker emphasized the benefit natural gas pipelines would have on creating jobs in the United States. By producing its own cost-effective energy, he said, the country could begin to compete again in the global manufacturing market.

“The most precious commodity that we have is time,” he said. “There are people in this nation – in my community, my town, my state – who need the help to create jobs.”

Parker got to the capital a day before the hearing and said cool weather made for a nice trip. His only regret was not checking the Major League Baseball schedule, he said, because on May 19 the Washington Nationals stunned the New York Yankees with a walk-off homer in the 10th inning to win 8-6.

“I didn’t realize they were playing, and I could have been sitting there watching the ballgame,” he said.“That’s a failure I will never forgive myself for.”

Hamlin: 919-836-5768

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