The Daily Herald
by Philip Sayblack
PLEASANT HILL — Dominion Power held a grand opening ceremony for its new Atlantic Coast Pipeline office Friday in Northampton County.
Officials from Dominion Power and Duke Power joined commissioners from Halifax and Northampton counties for the event at the facility, which is located on a five-acre site just inside the North Carolina state line in Northampton County. It will handle operations for the pipeline in Virginia and North Carolina once the pipeline is operating, according to Stephen McBrayer, ACP Facilities Engineering, Dominion Transmission. The ceremony took place approximately two years after its groundbreaking.
Dominion Energy Senior Energy Policy Director Bruce McKay opened the event with an update on the status of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, whose construction was halted in December due to legal challenges to permits given to Dominion by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
"The project is behind," he said. "We did voluntarily issue a stop work order on the pipeline because of everything. The case has gone to the Supreme Court and will be heard next spring. We're hoping a decision will come down by next summer."
McKay told the audience the plan posed by Dominion and its partners — Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas — wanted to create a tunnel beneath a section of the Appalachian Trail that would allow the 600-mile pipeline to deliver natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina.
Rep. Michael Wray (D-Halifax, Northampton) also attended Friday morning's event. He expanded on McKay's comments and praised officials from Halifax and Northampton counties for their support of the ACP.
"This project has a long way to go," he said. "Northampton County was one of the first counties in the impacted region to approve a resolution of support for the ACP. Once the pipeline is up and running, it will bring upwards of $1 million annually to the county."
"I commend Dominion and Duke for taking proactive steps to stop construction while this is going through the courts," he added. "They have been beaten up a lot on this, but they are doing great things for Northampton County. I have been in support of this project from the beginning, I am not ashamed to support the ACP. On behalf of everyone at my office, I am honored and privileged to be here today. Hopefully the Supreme Court will make the right choice.“
According to McBrayer, 19 people will staff the state-of-the art facility as Dominion awaits the outcome of the ACP case. The facility is state-of-the art because, as Heaton Construction President Paul Heaton said, it boasts energy efficient and ecologically safe heating, air and water. Heaton’s company, which is locally owned and operated, led the construction of the building.
While Friday’s event was held in Northampton County, the pipeline will impact the economy of Halifax County. Halifax County Board of Commissioners Chairman Vernon Bryant said following the event, having the pipeline is a must for both counties.
“In order for the counties’ leaders to position their counties for economic growth, we have got to have the ACP,” he said. “Without that gain, it is going to be a challenge. That is because it is such a recruitment tool to bring in businesses who are looking for places to locate and relocate.”
Bryant confirmed the county has fielded discussions with various unidentified businesses about locating to Halifax County, adding those discussions have included talks about the availability of natural gas for their operations.
Halifax County Economic Development Commission Director Cathy Scott also attended Friday's event. She called for increased support from all involved in the project during her remarks to the audience.
"We really have to speak louder in support of this project," she said. "Its importance is getting lost in all of the rhetoric being thrown about on both sides. This pipeline is about creating more jobs and increasing the region's tax base, as well as meeting the needs of our existing and future industry."
Northampton County Commissioners Kelvin Edwards and Joyce Buffaloe attended Friday's event on behalf of the Northampton County Board of Commissioners. The Daily Herald asked for their thoughts on the item, but the pair deferred comment to board Chairman Charles Tyner. The Daily Herald reached out to Tyner for comment, but attempts to reach him were unsuccessful by press time.
After all of the speakers shared their thoughts about the facility's opening and the importance of the ACP, a tour of the facility was offered to everyone along with a free lunch.Read the full article and more in The Daily Herald (login required).