Residents say pipeline company left them in the dark

Virginia News

(Photo courtesy of Allen Novak)

HANOVER, Va. (WRIC) — Allen Novak found out about the proposed pipeline the same way many residents of Hanover County did, by way of a letter from Chickahominy Pipeline, LLC requesting his permission to survey his farm.

“We got a letter in the mail from CPLLC based in Herndon, Va,” Novak said.

Details provided in the letter are scarce. In a copy obtained by 8News, the company lists the five counties the project would run through – Louisa, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Charles City – but doesn’t provide any other information about the purpose of the pipeline or details of its proposed route.

The letter (above), provided to 8News by a recipient, says crews will seek permission to survey in person if the resident doesn’t grant permission by mail.

Novak said he didn’t send anything back to the company, and doesn’t plan to grant permission if they do come knocking. But in the meantime, he’s talked to his neighbors, and found many – but not all – of them received similar letters.

He says they pieced together what they believed to be a portion of the route CPLLC is interested in, running directly through his farm and into a neighbor’s backyard.

“If you put one and one together, there’s a strip of 10, 20 acres,” that the pipeline could run through, he said. “There’s this patch of 40 acres that received letters – the bulk of the land to the West did not.”

“We have a small family farm that depends on these 25 acres here,” Novak said.

And opposition to the pipeline isn’t confined to Hanover. Glenn Cox, a landowner in Henrico County, said he received a similar request from CPLLC for a parcel of land near the county border with New Kent, just a half-mile from the Chickahominy River.

“They said they would come ask me in person between Aug. 1 and Oct. 1,” Cox said, adding that survey crews have not made an appearance yet.

He said he’s particularly concerned about proximity to the river, which could be especially vulnerable to environmental hazards, “Part of it is a wetland – I have 30 acres off of route 60.”

And Novak made clear that even if the crews do arrive, he has no intention of cooperating with the company.

“I plan on keeping it for future generations,” he said. “My land is not for sale.”

A Familiar Fight

For members of Concerned Citizens of Charles City County, or C5 for short, the nascent fight against the Chickahominy Pipeline is a familiar one. The group, which formed in June 2019, originally had two potential gas plants to contend with in a county of just under 7,000 residents.

One of the proposed plants, which is still in active development, is called the Chickahominy Power Station, and would be served by the proposed Chickahominy gas pipeline. Both the plant and the pipeline are associated with Balico, a limited liability company based in Herndon, Va.

Another, unrelated project – the C4GT gas plant – sank amid community opposition and questions about its financial viability. The Virginia Mercury reported that the plant even drew opposition from Representative Donald McEachin, the congressman representing much of Southside Virginia.

But the C4GT plant didn’t have a multi-county pipeline project associated with it. And so, as more details have emerged about the scope of the Chickahominy project, the opposition has grown not only in Charles City, but also in the four other counties that would be affected.

“With any development, you want to have processes and protections for the community,” a C5 representative told 8News. “The current trends with environmental injustice is blatantly shown with the approach of this development.”

Citizens Against Chickahominy Pipeline is one of the groups that has emerged specifically to combat the most recent proposal. A key part of their message has been the lack of transparency from the company.

No Chickahominy Pipeline is one of the community organizations that have emerged to oppose the plan.

A major difference between the C4GT plant and the current Chickahominy Power Station proposal is that the C4GT operating plan would have seen them purchase fuel from Virginia Natural Gas. As a result of that aspect of the plan, the company sought regulatory approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) – a step that required them to disclose many details of their plans in public filings.

Now C5 and Citizens Against Chickahominy Pipeline, along with county governments, competing gas companies and national environmental organizations, are gearing up for a long regulatory fight before the SCC.

Balico, CPLLC and the companies’ agent Mr. Irfan K. Ali did not respond to 8News’ request for comment.

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