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Pipeline developers open station in Smithfield

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SMITHFIELD — Energy executives and Johnston County leaders celebrated the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s new metering and regulating station at 78 Yelverton Grove Road last week.

A metering and regulation station is a custody transfer between suppliers and consumers of natural gas. The Smithfield station is the first completed infrastructure for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in North Carolina.

Energy representatives explained how the M&R station will provide natural gas from the pipeline to homes and businesses throughout eastern North Carolina through local distribution lines already in place.

Plans call for the 600-mile underground Atlantic Coast Pipeline to originate in West Virginia and travel through Virginia with a lateral extending to Chesapeake, and then continue south into eastern North Carolina, ending in Robeson County. The pipeline is planned to run the length of Johnston County along Interstate 95.

In North Carolina, the pipeline’s customers will include Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and PSNC, the Public Service Company of North Carolina.

Duke Energy will use the gas to generate electricity, while Piedmont Natural Gas will provide for heating and industrial operations.

Johnston County leaders continue to support the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline despite the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ Feb. 25 ruling denying permission for the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

Domininon Energy, a Richmond-based power and energy 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, the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce and the Four Oaks Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re celebrating the progress made on this project,” Bruce McKay, Dominion Energy’s senior energy policy director, said at the April 30 ceremony. “It’s a shame the protesters get more media attention than the progress we’ve made.”

McKay said no one has been a stronger and more solid supporter of the project than Johnston County.

“We expect that by the third quarter of this year, we’ll be back on track and under construction,” said McKay. “Think of ACP as the interstate and M&R stations like this one as the interchanges along the way which direct and regulate the flow of product. Facilities like this one play an important role.”

“Prospective investors in Johnston County want to see something tangible,” said Ted Godwin, chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners. “One of the most important factors in development is whether there’s reliable, clean energy and that’s what the ACP provides.”

Godwin said the pipeline enhances connectivity in eastern North Carolina.

“I’m a tree-hugger and believe our natural resources are important,’” said Godwin. “Some of these protest groups are pushing their own agendas. We have a good team for economic development in Johnston County and with ACP, we’ll have a better team.”

Durwood Stephenson, founder and president of Stephenson General Contractors, said natural gas is a must for manufacturing and farming.

“If we want to see our children and grandchildren prosper in eastern North Carolina, then this pipeline must be put in place,” said Stephenson.

Catherine Glover Frazier, human resources director for Glover Construction, said she’s proud of her company’s work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

“Our involvement with the pipeline is multifaceted,” said Frazier. “Eastern North Carolina is home for us and the ACP is a necessity, especially for our smaller communities, to maintain their vitality for years to come.”

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. On its social media page, members of the group say they fear pipeline dangers and oppose what they describe as “the unjust use of eminent domain to obtain property.”