Oct. 18–NORFOLK — Two congressmen have asked the Navy to look into the safety of a natural gas pipeline set to run beneath a Norfolk shipyard — a project that has become a flash-point.
Colonna’s Shipyard has been waging a campaign against Virginia Natural Gas’Southside Connector Distribution Pipeline Project for weeks, saying that the utility has mislead the public and officials and that the line is too dangerous for its current route.
The yard also spearheaded the creation of a group called the 757 Pipeline Safety Coalition that includes several civic leagues in Berkley to oppose the project.
After being lobbied by pipeline opponents, representatives Bobby Scott and Donald McEachin wrote to Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer to ask “that the Navy intervene and request that the project be re-evaluated to consider national security risks.”
Invoking the same concerns Colonna’s has pushed over the last couple of weeks — worries about gas leaks and explosions impacting their yard and neighboring shipyards — the letter argues that “any sort of accident along the SCDP could be catastrophic to these shipyards and any Navy asset and personnel stationed near the pipeline.”
The Navy has previously said it defers to the impact assessments of the State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in Virginia. The SCC has given VNG the green light on the project.
Some Norfolk council members, who gave VNG the council’s blessing to use city right-of-ways for the pipeline last year, have also expressed an interest in learning more about the potential impacts of the pipeline. A review is under way from independent experts hired by the city.
VNG has struck back in recent weeks, calling Colonna’s comments about the company and the pipeline “defamatory” in a public letter and saying the safety of the line is unimpeachable and no different than hundreds of miles of lines already in the ground.
Shipyard executives have said the Southside Connector Distribution Pipeline, or SCDP, could introduce risk that may steer Navy business Colonna’s relies on to other yards, while residents along the line’s path have expressed concerns about their own safety.
VNG has largely run its line along existing power line easements and under city streets in Norfolk. Some residents in Chesapeake, where the line terminates, objected to the pipeline last year and protested against it to no avail.
A court ruled last month that despite Colonna’s objections, the line could proceed through their property. That stretch running from South Main Street in Berkley, under Colonna’s and the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River to Harbor Park, is the last section of the 9-mile pipeline left to be laid.
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