PAMPLICO, S.C. (AP) — The land agent who arrived at Reatha Jefferson’s door in May, unannounced and unmasked in the middle of the pandemic, told her he was giving her one more chance.
The agent was there on behalf of Virginia-based utility giant Dominion Energy. He wanted to see if Jefferson would let Dominion run a new natural gas pipeline through the land her great-grandfather, a rural Black farmer, had bought more than a century ago in Pamplico, South Carolina.
Jefferson sent the agent away and in July, the utility served her with court papers in an attempt to use eminent domain to build the pipeline.
The proposed 14.5-mile-long (23-kilometer-long) gas line is small in contrast to projects like the recently canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline, or even a 55-mile-long (88.5-kilometer-long) pipeline Dominion built recently in the state. But for Jefferson, it threatens to stain the land where her relatives once grew tobacco, corn and wheat, and the river where her father used to catch catfish for dinner.
“This property’s been in my family for 100 years. How do they think they can tell me what they’re going to run through my property?” she said.
The company cites new energy demand spurred by economic growth in eastern South Carolina as the impetus for the project. Dominion declined to make anyone available for an interview but said in a statement that the project could help attract and grow businesses, adding jobs and possibly lowering energy costs for residents.
The gas main, designed to supply customers directly with natural gas, would run 14.5 miles from a valve station to a regulating station along the Great Pee Dee River, according to permitting paperwork Dominion submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers. It would traverse 65 pieces of private property along the way.