WENTWORTH — As more details emerge about a proposed natural gas pipeline through parts of Rockingham and Alamance counties, some residents shared questions and comments Monday during a listening session for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Dr. J. William Walker, an 86-year-old retired dentist from Madison, was the first person to enter a room and sit down with a court reporter — the protocol set up for the listening session. Held at Rockingham Community College, it was the first of three scheduled this week in the region to obtain feedback about the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate Extension.
Walker said the route appears to cut through the middle of land that has been in his family since 1780.
“This is the only land left in the Walker name,” he said of the tract which has a working farm with two ponds. “It means a lot to me. There’s no amount of money they could pay me to say that I’m OK with this.”
Shawn Day, spokesman for MVP Southgate, said the company’s top priority is safety and that they are diligently working with landowners and other local and state agencies. The company wants to build and maintain approximately 73 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline from Chatham, Virginia, to a delivery point with Dominion Energy near Graham in Alamance County.
“We’ve made more than 1,000 adjustments to the route since April 2018,” Day said of his team’s efforts to more thoroughly address issues undetected by satellite mapping.
Bettie Thomas of Stoneville came to the session with her daughter, Tonya McCollom, to pick up handouts about the project on behalf of her brothers. The family owns land in Reidsville that could be affected by the pipeline.
“You hear so many things about pipelines,” Thomas said. “I want to know about safety. We have some homework to do.”
Ridge Graham, the North Carolina field coordinator for Appalachian Voices, said the format of the listening session — going into a room only with a court reporter — could be intimidating and takes away from the community conversation.
“There are a lot of folks that are scared because they have a lot of questions,” Graham said.
Lib Hutchby drove from her home in Chapel Hill to express her concern about water protections.
“This is not a public hearing as I expected it to be,” she said. “You’re not able to hear what other people are thinking.”
Staff from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the format helps ensure that everyone’s comments are received more efficiently. Public comments received tonight will be posted online at a later date for public viewing on the commission’s website, www.ferc.gov, where additional documentation about the project is available.