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Virginia power company draws protest in Columbia

Protesters visited Columbia to criticize Dominion Resources, a Virginia power company whose shareholders met Wednesday in South Carolina’s capital city
Protesters visited Columbia to criticize Dominion Resources, a Virginia power company whose shareholders met Wednesday in South Carolina’s capital city

Protesters showed up Wednesday at a national energy company’s annual shareholders meeting in Columbia as part of a campaign to stop a nearly 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline through Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Pipeline opponents carried signs and banners outside the Hilton on Senate Street, where Dominion Resources shareholders met. Some dressed as corporate executives as part of the protest.

Dominion Resources, which recently established an office in Columbia, has been under fire over a pipeline that critics say will disrupt Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia communities, while increasing safety and pollution concerns. Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas chose Dominion to build and operate the proposed pipeline for them.

In South Carolina, the company sparked criticism last year over plans for a 28-mile pipeline through farmlands and wetlands southeast of Columbia.

Natural resource agencies and some landowners questioned the Richland County plan’s environmental impact last year, but records show that some of the disputes with landowners have been resolved as the company seeks final approval from federal regulators for the Columbia-area pipeline. Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin has embraced the company’s entry into the area. The company acquired SCANA’s natural gas pipeline holdings in 2014

Dominion maintains that all of its pipeline operations are safe and won’t disrupt communities. A company spokeswoman said Wednesday that the Virginia-North Carolina project is “urgently needed .... to generate electricity, heat homes and power businesses.’’

Those protesting outside the meeting had little to say about the Columbia pipeline. They instead expressed concern about the Virginia-North Carolina natural gas pipe. Some of those protesting traveled from communities in Virginia to show their displeasure.

Protest organizers, which favor solar and wind energy over natural gas, included the environmental groups Appalachian Voices and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

“Dominion’s plans to invest billions in fracked-gas power plants and pipelines will shackle its customers and its shareholders to the health and financial risks of dirty energy for generations to come,” Appalachian Voices campaign coordinator Hannah Wiegard said in a news release.

Dominion says it is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy. The company, which wants to establish a third nuclear plant in rural Virginia, operates more than 12,000 miles of natural gas pipelines and 6,500 miles of electric transmission lines. The company, headquartered in Virginia, serves customers in 14 states. It is also one of Virginia’s largest power companies.

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