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Dinorah Hall, Gloria Gaines lead Dougherty County fight against gas pipeline

Activists spearhead meeting asking for support in their battle againt a natural gas pipeline project

Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes hosted a gathering at Eureka Baptist Church Tuesday to discuss issues with a planned natural gas pipeline scheduled to run through the county. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes hosted a gathering at Eureka Baptist Church Tuesday to discuss issues with a planned natural gas pipeline scheduled to run through the county. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

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Dinorah Hall, left, and Gloria Gaines provided information about the proposed Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline at a South Dougherty Community League meeting Tuesday evening. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — While many initially concerned property owners along the pathway of a proposed 460-mile Alabama-to-Florida natural gas pipeline have quietly given up hope of stopping the Sabal Trail pipeline, activists like Dinorah Hall and Gloria Gaines have vowed not to give up the fight.

That pair led a discussion of the impact of the proposed $3 billion pipeline at a meeting of the South Dougherty Community League Tuesday night, telling more than 70 participants they would not “just sit idly by and let this happen.”

Hall, whose property in southwest Dougherty County will be impacted by the proposed pipeline, and Gaines, a former Dougherty County commissioner who has expressed concern about construction of a compressor station along Newton Road, a short distance from the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission’s water supply, warned those at the meeting at Eureka Baptist Church of the potential dangers presented by the pipeline.

“We’ve proposed alternate routes for the pipeline, but the Sabal Trail people aren’t listening,” Hall told the audience. “They’re paying no attention to us. And this pipeline is not just going to impact our lives over a short period. It will change our lives permanently, for generations to come.”

Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes, who served as host of Tuesday’s gathering, praised Hall and Gaines for leading “a very diverse group coming together to fight against a thing we think is bad for our community.”

“There are risks, inherent dangers, in locating this pipeline in our community,” the District 2 commissioner said.

Gaines gave the Eureka audience a timeline for the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline, noting that contractor Spectra Energy is currently working with state and national officials to complete a mandatory impact statement, a process scheduled to be finished in 2015. If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, construction on the pipeline would begin in 2016. The pipeline, which would carry up to 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from a transfer station in central Alabama to central Florida for its energy usage, would become operational in 2017.

Included in the project is a compressor station, which would be located along Newton Road.

“This proposal should vehemently be challenged; it should be vehemently opposed,” Gaines said. “It defies reason that the only compressor station (Spectra plans to build) in the state of Georgia would be located in the middle of the most populous region along the trail.

“Can you imagine overlaying this region’s difficult economic issues with an issue like this? Can you imagine that businesses will want to come to our region? Can you imagine that people will want to raise a family here?”

Hall, who recognized Green Law, Flint RiverKeeper and Ted Turner’s Noname Plantation as supporters in the fight against the pipeline, said completion of the project would bring “irreparable damage” to the environment along the trail.

“It will negatively impact the soil, the water table, our Flint River — which is the lifeblood of this region — our forest lands, our wetlands, our property values and economic development in the region,” Hall said. “It also poses a health risk with the pollutants that will be released into the air. There are documented cases of illnesses, including cancer, from inhaling these pollutants.

“And there is the threat of an explosion at this compressor station, which is a monstrosity and will be a tremendous intrusion on people’s lives.”

The pair showed video clips featuring residents in Springville, Pa., who live close to a compressor station similar to the one planned for Dougherty County. The people interviewed complained about the noise, odors and imminent threat presented by the facility. Gaines described the noise as a “jet engine running constantly, 24-7.”

Kenneth Cutts, who represents local interests of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany; District 5 County Commissioner Harry James, and Ward III Albany City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher attended the meeting.

Hall and Gaines encouraged those at the meeting to sign petitions asking state and federal officials to deny Spectra’s request to begin work on the pipeline utilizing its proposed “cheapest path of least resistance.” They said they planned another meeting next week.