In a recent op-ed, the Upstate Alliance expressed its support for the proposed Piedmont natural gas pipeline. It is understandable that the Alliance would support a project of two of its most important members (Duke Energy, a member of its Chairman’s Circle, and Piedmont, a board member). While we appreciate the Upstate Alliance’s economic development mission, we part company with them on this project.
Piedmont, owned by Duke Energy, proposes to build a pipeline through the countryside of northern Greenville County. Piedmont admits that the pipeline would cost somewhere between $60 to $100 million, not counting the guaranteed profit that Piedmont and Duke would receive as state-created monopolies. Ratepayers will foot the bill, with a transfer of wealth from Greenville to Charlotte and then to Duke’s large investors on Wall Street.
And contrary to the Alliance’s letter, Piedmont has denied that this pipeline is necessary for any Greenville industry. Rather, as Duke has admitted, it is looking to Piedmont pipelines to help cover some of the losses from the failure of its Atlantic Coast pipeline project.
Greenville County’s natural beauty and quality of life are our greatest asset. But this pipeline would cut right through cherished landscapes and promote sprawl in an area where the public and the County’s comprehensive plan (unanimously approved by Greenville County Council) have stated should remain rural. Piedmont has conceded that this pipeline could serve dense developments in northern Greenville County.
There is nothing “natural” about Piedmont’s gas. It is a polluting fossil fuel that leaks harmful methane pollution when it is flushed from oil fields and while it is piped hundreds of miles. And it is not necessary. Electricity — ironically, from Duke Energy — can do everything that homes need. These two monopolies want to send us the bill for duplicative energy infrastructure — power lines and their pipelines.
Piedmont and Duke would sacrifice the natural beauty, clean water, and environment of Greenville County for their financial gains. This pipeline, if approved, would harm or destroy waterways, rare species, and unique wetlands that exist only in northern Greenville County. And Piedmont admits that, if necessary, it will trample over private property rights and use eminent domain to install its line.
Just a few years ago, Duke proposed to build a massive power line through northern Greenville County and said that the project was necessary for reliability and growth. The Upstate rose up, Duke backed down, the region has prospered, and the lights have stayed on. Once again, it’s time to oppose another unnecessary and destructive project.
Duke and Piedmont have a chance to show real leadership here. By withdrawing these plans, they can be partners in protecting Greenville County’s beauty, environment, and economy.