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Proposed Compressor Station in Buckingham Ignites Opposition

At last month’s planning commission meeting in Buckingham County, so many people signed up to speak about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that a second meeting was created just to continue the public comments. WMRA’s Jordy Yager was there.

On an unseasonably warm October evening, about a hundred people gathered Monday at the Buckingham County Administration Complex.

Most were there to protest the proposed compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Wearing pins and shirts emblazoned with “No Pipeline” and “No Compressor,” several dozen people joined in song beforehand.  

But inside, it was all business, as six members of the sheriff’s department stood watch over the crowd and 22 area residents got up, one-by-one, to speak their minds.

PAUL BARLOW: Look I’m a realist, okay.

Paul Barlow and his wife own 20 acres less than 5 miles away from the proposed compressor station being sought by Dominion Power and three other large companies.

BARLOW: I know Dominion has a lot of money, a lot of power. $45 billion buys a lot. They have an army of lawyers that will litigate and litigate and litigate until they get their way. We request that you table this motion until adequate research is done and alternative methods are investigated to reduce or eliminate pollution and compressor station noise. Once they get that permit in their hand, they’re going to do whatever they want to do. Thank you.

The companies are asking Buckingham County for a special use permit to install a station that would compress the natural gas as it flows through the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, from the fracking fields of West Virginia to utility customers in North Carolina.

The station would bring the county nearly $9 million in tax revenue over 8 years. And in an area where 22 percent of the population lives at or below the poverty level, that’s not chump change. What’s more is that Dominion says the health and safety risks are small. 

John Arsenault from Prince Edward County agreed.

JOHN ARSENAULT: My personal experience there is why I support this project here.

For 30 years, Arsenault worked in the oil and gas industry in Alaska. He now runs a freight shipping company out of Fredericksburg.

ARSENAULT: These facilities are safe, they’re quiet, and a marvel of American engineering…As an example of what can happen, living in Alaska for 40 years, Alaskans have had no state income tax, no state sales tax, and pays every living resident in the state an oil dividend of over $1,000 to $2,000 a year. Run well, you folks could do something similar here.

Many area residents at the meeting said the health and safety risks of a compression station and the accompanying 42-inch wide natural gas pipeline were not worth the potential tax revenue. Among a long list of issues, they’re worried about natural gas leaks, and what are called ‘blow downs’ — when natural gas is intentionally vented from pipeline equipment.

Cris Arbo lives nearby and has a daughter with respiratory related health issues.

CRIS ARBO: Is Dominion going to send somebody over to my house in the middle of the night to stay up with my daughter while she can’t breath and her nose is running so bad that it’s all over her pillow? This thing makes me very upset. And whatever carrot that this company wants to dangle in front of the powers that be in our county, it’s just not worth it. It’s not worth it. That’s all.

The nearby spiritual community of Yogaville had several residents speak on its behalf, and several others raised concerns about the local African-American community, Union Hill, which was recently labeled an endangered historic place by Preservation Virginia, a statewide non-profit group. The proposed pipeline would run directly through the community. A pastor from a church in Union Hill was arrested earlier this month in Richmond after protesting in front of the governor’s mansion. Gov. Terry McAuliffe supports the pipeline’s construction.

After nearly two hours, members of the planning commission closed the meeting, saying that representatives from Dominion would be given a chance to respond to the questions and concerns raised by residents at a meeting next Monday, October 24th at 6pm.

Jordy Yager was a freelance reporter for WMRA from 2015 - 2019.