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The approximately 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is designed to make our region energy sure by connecting us to an abundant supply of affordable, cleaner-burning natural gas.

Pipeline delays stall North Carolina business park

Pipeline delays stall North Carolina business park
FOUR OAKS, N.C. – Four Oaks Mayor Linwood Parker says things were looking up for his Johnston County town of about 2,000.

About 10 years ago, community leaders began development of an industrial park to attract manufacturers and businesses, not unlike those in the not-too-distant Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, where many Four Oaks residents have been forced to turn for work.

“This is planting season in our community,” Parker says, referring to the industrial park as he would a field ripe for sowing and cultivation. “We have fields over to the left and fields here that we had hoped by this time that we would be able to see manufacturing plants rising up, workers going to work, families having good strong income, our economy growing.”

The Four Oaks industrial park was able to attract one large distribution center. The park has roads. It has water, and it has electricity.

But one thing it lacks is an abundant supply of natural gas.

“Because of the lack of natural gas, we’ve been unable to acquire manufacturing plants,” Parker says. “For five years in a row, ever since we began asking and working for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, we’ve hoped next year we’ll be able to plant. Next year we’ll have jobs for our community. Next year we will have a tax base to help us with our schools.

“Yet we still don’t have natural gas, and the reason is that they just keep putting it off,” Parker says.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is intended to bring abundant, affordable natural gas, jobs and economic development to the communities along its path, including Four Oaks.

But in December 2018, a federal court ordered work halted on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The delay has left the future of the project in doubt, and put workers, businesses and communities on the line.

“We spent two years … asking for this pipeline to come through our community and to provide the necessary energy we needed to grow our economy,” Parker says. “And, after that period of time, we finally received approval, and now we’re going through the courts. All that does is to stop the planting of (manufacturing) plants in these fields. It stops the opportunities.”

Parker isn’t knocking the distribution center the park was able to attract, or its jobs. But, he says, “Manufacturing jobs pay more. And, instead of our people having to travel away to find higher paying jobs in the Research Triangle Park, they can stay right here. Some of them could walk to work; certainly they can ride a bicycle across the bridge from our community right out here.”

There are those who think Four Oaks doesn’t need natural gas for its business park. Some of them fully support the parks in the Research Triangle.

“If the business park doesn’t need natural gas, why does the Research Triangle Park got natural gas?” Parker asks. “It’s like you all are telling us we needed outhouses instead of septic tanks.

“We need the opportunity for this economy to grow,” Parker says.

“There was a lady in our community, told me one time, ‘Linwood, I want you to know that there’s never been a pancake that didn’t have two sides. One might be just more brown than the other,’” Parker says. “What she was saying, there’s two sides to every issue.

“This one has been debated,” he says. “It’s time now for us to move on. Let’s work together, build that line, create these jobs (and) help these families.”


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