Permit decision unlikely Monday

Published 1:05 am Thursday, October 20, 2016

Though Buckingham County Planning Commission members completed an hours-long, two-part public hearing — split because of the number of people who signed up to speak — they most likely will not vote during their regular Monday meeting on a permit request for a 53,515 horsepower compressor station as part of the Dominion-led Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

When polled, only one of the eight commissioners, Danny Allen, who represents the board of supervisors on the commission, indicated his vote, which is to abstain because of his employment with Dominion. The remainder all said they are still undecided.

“I am a 36-and-a-half year employee of Dominion. I’m not able to vote,” said Allen, who added that he intended to abstain when, and if, the permit request is considered by supervisors, who have the final say on the permit decision.

Email newsletter signup

“(There’s) no way that I could tell you one way or the other. No, I don’t have a clue,” said District Five representative Sammy Smith as to how he’ll vote

Smith’s district will see the gas-fired compressor station, planned for a 68.5-acre parcel of property along Route 56 between Shelton Store and Union Hill roads.

Many of the speakers — all of whom but two opposed the permit request citing health, economic and quality-of-life concerns during the public hearings — live in Smith’s district.

“I’ve got so much stuff still to read, still to go over. All of the numbers that were presented, there are other sources that don’t exactly agree,” Smith said. “Even on the pro side, there’s a difference between my side, your side and the tree. And what I’m looking for is the tree.”

Smith also said he was disappointed in “folks being so rude … I really am disappointed in the civility of folks in Buckingham right now.”

During the hearings, some in the audience talked while people were addressing the commission and clapped when statements were made.

The commission will begin its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday by having Dominion answer questions members have come up with. The regular meeting, where voting normally takes place, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Buckingham County Administration Building on Route 60.

“We’ve got to get something out of this thing,” District Three representative Pat Bowe said. “Until we do, they’re going to have a major problem with us, I believe.”

Bowe said in order for him to consider voting in favor, Buckingham would need a way to use the gas moving through the county.

“Without that, I’m not in favor of it. If we cannot use that gas that they want to pump through here, I will fight them to the end,” he said. “What I would do Monday, is, I would introduce 15 conditions of my own. They’re not going to march through us like Sherman marched through Georgia. They’re not going to do it. I cannot stop them, nor can the planning commission or the board of supervisors, but we can certainly condition them.”

The commission has already placed 32 conditions on the permit so far, which could be amended further.

The Dominion-led ACP LLC wants to build a 42-inch 600-mile natural gas pipeline through three states. It would span Buckingham County; the proposed station would help move gas down the line.

“There’s some other issues that I don’t know how they’re going to respond that are outside of the scope of the conditions we’ve got on,” District One representative and Commission Chairman John Bickford said, adding he is worried about “the responsibility for the emergency situation like a fire or something. (It would have to be) thoroughly vetted because, if they have the right equipment, they don’t have the right training. And you’re talking about a volunteer fire force.”

District Two commissioner Royce Charlton III said forming a decision now would be “unconscionable” with many unanswered questions. District Four representative James Dabney Crews Sr. said additional restrictions to “protect us a little bit more” might be in order. District Six representative Chet Maxey said the Dominon need to answer citizens’ questions and he has more of his own.

“The more I find out, the more questions I’ve got. So, we’re nowhere near the end of the process, I don’t think,” Maxey said.

“I feel for the people who don’t want it,” District Seven representative Alice Gormus said. “But, in the same instance, you can’t stay stagnant … You can’t live in the fear of the unknown.”