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SMITHFIELD — Johnston County leaders continue to support the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline despite a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Feb. 25 blocking it from crossing the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.
The 600-mile underground natural gas pipeline would originate in West Virginia, travel through Virginia with a lateral extending to Chesapeake, Virginia, and then continue south into eastern North Carolina, ending in Robeson County. The pipeline would run the length of Johnston County along Interstate 95.
Dominion Energy, a Richmond-based power company, owns 48 percent of the pipeline. The project is endorsed by the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, the towns of Selma and Four Oaks, the Johnston County Economic Development office, Triangle East Chamber of Commerce and the Four Oaks Chamber of Commerce.
Four Oaks Mayor Linwood Parker and Smithfield developer Durwood Stephenson have appeared in videos supporting the project.
The pipeline is supported by CSX Railroad, Johnston Community College and local businesses including Four Oaks Bank and White Swan Bar-B-Que.
“Personally, it’s annoying to have the extreme environmentalists cost us millions because of their delaying tactics,” said Ted Godwin, the Johnston County Board of Commissioners’ chairman. “If one looks at a U.S. map which shows pipelines in existence, there is a noticeable lack in eastern North Carolina. From I-95 east, there’s nothing, it’s a void. The counties to our east are never going to improve economically unless they get the pipeline. It’s most disappointing to me that all the optimism expressed by caring people is muted by this action.”
Triangle East Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Mancuso addressed the project’s importance to North Carolina.
“The pipeline is a key part of infrastructure for all of eastern North Carolina and our ability to grow our economies,” said Mancuso. “It is a must-have for our markets and Johnston County.”
Johnston County Economic Development Director Chris Johnson said the county would be disappointed if the pipeline isn’t built.
“The Johnston County Economic Development office has been a strong advocate for meeting the needs of existing industries and new companies considering our county,” said Johnson. This is especially true along the Interstate 95 corridor. In this highly competitive environment of trying to create higher-paying jobs for our residents, natural gas is the key element for the communities along I-95. “We are still committed to trying to create employment opportunities for our citizens.”
A Dominion Energy spokesperson said the company is expected to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court within the next 90 days. Dominion Energy is also expected to pursue other legislative and administrative options.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not without local opposition.
A Clayton-based grassroots community group called No Pipeline Johnston County was established in January 2017. Members said they fear pipeline dangers and opposed what they describe as the unjust use of eminent domain to obtain property.
Representatives of the group could not be reached for comment in time for this story.