The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hosted a comment session Wednesday night in Nelson County regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
According to officials with the project, the pipeline would help bring natural gas to parts of Virginia and North Carolina.
Wednesday’s event was meant to collect input on FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project, which was released a few months ago.
People came out from both sides of the debate to have their voices heard. Some people support the pipeline, saying it will help make energy more affordable and bring new revenue to the county.
“The cost of energy is embedded with everything that we purchase,” said Carlton Ballowe, a Nelson County resident. “And so the more affordable energy that we can have, the higher our standard of living.”
“This is all about American security and job growth and prosperity for the American nation,” said David Hight, who also supports the pipeline.
Opponents to the pipeline have concerns about several issues, especially environmental impact. FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement says while there would be “some adverse effects” on the environment due to the pipeline’s construction and operation, those impacts would be minimized by those in charge of the pipeline.
Pipeline opponents we spoke with said they believe FERC’s draft of the statement does not assess all environmental consequences.
“They’re going to have to build a lot of access roads because this is being built in rural communities along the way,” said Sharon Ponton of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.
“They haven’t done their research,” said Amelia Williams, who is also against the pipeline. “There’s all kinds of data that they’ve failed to gather.”
“With any draft document, there will be things that are missing, there will be things that are wrong, there will be things that could be interpreted differently,” said Dave Swearingen of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Swearingen said meetings like this allow his organization to make changes to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement so a final version can be released.
Some people expressed concerns about the format of the session, which allowed people to provide comments one at a time in interviews with a three-minute time limit. Pipeline opposition group Friends of Nelson County hosted its own meeting next door at the middle school so people could discuss their views with each other.
Swearingen said the format of FERC’s event gives as many people as possible the chance to voice their opinions.
“The person is talking directly to a court reporter,” he said. “They are not going to be shouted down. They’re not going to be intimidated. They can give their comments without interference from anybody else.”
A final version of the Environmental Impact Statement will be released in the next few months, according to FERC officials.
Several other comment sessions with FERC are planned to discuss the pipeline. The deadline to submit comments to FERC is April 6, Swearingen said.
All written and verbal comments received at these sessions will be released publicly in a few weeks, he added.