PEMBROKE, N.C. (WNCN) — Hundreds of protesters in Pembroke, Fayetteville and Nashville marched Saturday in opposition to a proposed pipeline.
The nearly 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is planned to carry natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina. Construction could begin as early as Fall 2017 if permits are issued following a review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
On Saturday, Mac Legerton led a three-mile march in Robeson County, which began at a park across the street from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and finished at the planned end point of the pipeline in the Prospect community.
“We feel very strongly that this is being done because this is the poorest part of the state. We always seem to get the waste that other people want to get rid of and the dirtiest economic plans,” Legerton said.
“We in the local community feel very strongly that further development of any fossil fuel will make us dependent on it for decades to come, and economic development now is moving rapidly toward energy conservation, renewable clean energy sources, and expanding technology,” Legerton added.
Legerton said the Center for Community Action, which he directs in Robeson County, and members of Eco-Robeson want to start their protests far in advance of the FERC review, in an effort to educate communities about the pipeline.
Groups in Nash and Cumberland counties performed similar marches Saturday morning and all three events were considered prayer walks.
The Robeson County group gave their march a title: “Walk for the Protection of People and Places Where We Live: Stop the Pipeline.”
Participants came from Cary and Durham and as far away as Asheville, plus a group of students from Appalachian State University.
Some of the afternoon protesters in Pembroke also took part in the morning marches. Many expressed concern about the drilling process used to extract natural gas and the potential for water contamination from fracking or leaks.
“Water is life, and we need to make sure that the water is protected,” said Emily Wilkins of Durham. “We’re coming because everybody’s land is everybody’s land and we need to protect it for future generations.”
Some of the land in Pembroke and the Prospect community is traditionally tribal and representatives from the Native American community walked in the front of about 100 marchers in Robeson County.
Riders of the RedRum Motorcycle Club, which consists of Native American members, helped a pair of law enforcement vehicles block intersections and escort walkers.
“This is our land. We’re just trying to protect and help raise awareness of what’s going on,” RedRum rider Marcus Locklear said.
“You’ve got some people that are for it, but there’s other means of transporting oil and natural gas. It’s been done for years and it’s always worked. Why change it?” Locklear added.
Legerton said there will be a two-week walk in early March along the entire proposed route of the pipeline.