Accident At Compressor Station Fuels More Pipeline Concerns

| Educate!

Above photo: Opponents of the Atlantic Coast pipeline in Fayetteville, N.C., march in a protest. Photo by Mike Soraghan.

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Prospect, North Carolina – As reported in the ROBESONIAN, Jennifer Sharpe, a communication specialist with Piedmont Natural Gas, stated that the accidental leak caused by a malfunctioning valve at the Prospect Compressor Station in Robeson County was detected at about 3:40 AM on Tuesday at the Natural Gas Control Room at the company’s headquarters in Charlotte. She stated that the situation was never unsafe and no local emergency personnel were called to the Compressor Station. The leak was finally stopped at 5:00 am. (See ROBESONIAN, “Gas Leak Makes Noise in Prospect”, November 21, 2017).

The site is embroiled in a major controversy as it sits at the gateway to Prospect, just outside of Pembroke, NC. Both communities are two of the oldest Native American communities in North Carolina and the nation. It is also the site of the supposed end-point of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline which wants to construct and Metering and Regulating Station and a Tower higher than the Statue of Liberty at the same site. This reported termination point was called into serious question last month when a Dominion Executive stated that plans, all along, were to take the pipeline into South Carolina. Dominion hastily released a statement discounting that statement.

Telford Dial, Lumbee, lives about 400 yards through the woods from the Compressor Station. His sleep was disturbed by the sound of discharged gas that sounded “like a 747 taking off”.  This description of the release of the highly-pressurized gas coincides with other accounts, including those at the similar site of the major explosion and fire in Orion Township, Michigan on the same day. In an interview with the ROBESONIAN, Dial stated that he is fortunate that no one traveling down N.C. 710 flicked a burning cigarette butt out of their vehicle and ignited the gas leaking into the air directly next to the road.  He lives in what is called the “incinerator zone,” Dial said

The question of why no local emergency personnel were notified or why the warning and evacuation siren was not sounded and heard over the noise of the highly-pressurized, releasing gas is one of many questions being asked. The siren has been used previously when there were planned or unplanned, major gas releases.

Robie Goins, Lumbee, is a leader in efforts to halt the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the further development of the Prospect Compressor Station site. Robie asks: “Whether this was an accident or a planned release, why wasn’t the community notified and given the opportunity to evacuate? Why didn’t the siren sound as it has in the past? How much gas escaped during the highly-pressured overflow or blow down?

Goins is active in Eco-Robeson, the county’s environmental coalition that grew out of the successful work to remove and recycle two coal ash ponds from the shores of the Lumber River. Robie and his brother have family land just one block from the Compressor Station and adjoining the property of the proposed Metering and Regulating Station and Tower. He is also the lead petitioner in a lawsuit filed against the Robeson County Board of Commissioners and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline regarding its further, proposed development.

Goins states: “This in the middle of an inhabited community on a well-traveled highway. It is not in an isolated, rural area. The existing site and compressor station should not even be here, much less become host to further hazardous development. Methane gas is highly toxic and harmful to the air, water, soil, and all life.  Both Compressor Stations and Metering and Regulating Stations are the most volatile and dangerous locations on a pipeline. With further development and both situated in the same place, Prospect and Pembroke would become one of the most hazardous places to live along the entire proposed 600-mile pipeline route.”

Rev. Mac Legerton, a local United Church of Christ minister and Co-founder of the Center for Community Action, has been engaged in environmental protection and promotion since 1984. He lives six miles from the site in Pembroke. He states: “The entire proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline travels through the most vulnerable environment of our State and impacts our most vulnerable populations. The economic and political arguments for the pipeline are totally irresponsible and short-sighted. We now know that methane gas is less green and less clean than coal and nuclear and more expensive when its full costs and impacts on the environment and climate over the next 20 years are assessed. The proposed pipeline is a prime example of economic underdevelopment, not development”.

The Coastal Plains are our State’s Amazon. We are the source of cleaner air, filtered water, solar farms, and local food production that could feed our entire State.  Our present and future economy is in renewable sources of energy and in the natural assets and capital of our clean air, forests, wetlands, rivers, and fields. We can be the cultivators of our precious and most diverse ecosystem in our state, not its detractors and destroyers.