Smithfield: Opinion

Your Letters: Landowner says no to pipeline

Pipeline could be a bust

As an Eastern N.C. landowner directly affected by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, I feel obliged to myself and to my community to make my views public.

The argued benefit of economic development might be over-promised; the proposed pipeline might not improve the overall economy of Eastern North Carolina. The promised job increase because of the pipeline will likely be temporary; in other states, most pipeline workers have come from out of state. Furthermore, overpopulation, traffic jams, expanded school budgets and many other community impacts of population growth are probable results of development.

Fracking, the source of natural gas for the proposed pipeline, wastes water and pollutes. Water is the key resource used to make deliverable natural gas; millions of gallons are used for fracking a well, and most of it is not recovered. As good water becomes more and more scarce nationwide, we need to develop energy sources that conserve it, not waste it. While power generated by natural gas releases less carbon output to the atmosphere, some scientists are saying that it has many times more methane, which might cause the greenhouse effect to worsen even more than burning coal does.

Proponents say that because fracking (and piping natural gas) is so much better for the environment than coal-burning power generation, we should rush to use it and extract as much as possible. I wish we could adopt an attitude of conservation of the non-replaceable resources left to us and a stepped-up stance to develop non-fossil resources. I resent the “take all” approach to the limited fossil-fuel resources that remain for future generations.

Natural gas and oil from fracking and pipeline delivery is a boom and new revolution in the nation, not unlike the oil boom after World War II and the earlier gold rush out West. It is a “get rich quick” scheme for the right players. Only secondly, and incidentally, can it truly benefit Eastern North Carolina’s citizens. I believe the main reasons for building the pipeline are to profit the power company and investors and to create increased demand for natural gas.

Public utilities are now readily granted permission for eminent domain, which can lead to abuse of that power. In most countries, the government is usually the owner of energy resources and represents the citizens’ interests and the common good in questions of eminent domain (essentially seizure of land rights). However, in the United States, the mandate for citizen protection in questions of eminent domain has often been transferred to quasi-governmental corporations (including public utilities) – corporations that have profit as their overriding goal, not the good of the people. Also, the fair market value paid for the taken land does not adequately account for all values of the land.

Governments have consciously been deregulating energy companies, partly as a mechanism to aim toward oil independence for the nation. Because of many accidents and pollution incidents already recorded, government inspections and regulations need to be expanded, not curtailed in this era of fracking boom and pipeline construction. I do not trust Duke Energy or Dominion Resources to “do the right thing” to protect citizens and the environment. I can not fully trust a company, such as Duke Energy, that did not clean up its coal ash stores and plans to charge customers, instead of investors, for any proposed clean-up.

I am convinced that my land will lose considerable value when a pipeline is placed through it. Like my ancestors for many generations in Johnston County, I believe in stewardship of the land. I lament the sacrifice I will be expected to pay for the economic benefit of huge corporations and their investors. I dread to face the danger of leakage or explosion and the disruptions that will occur on my small plot, in my state and in other states, as a result of greed in the name of economic development and profit.

Francine Stephenson