32-mile natural gas pipeline project in Dickson County sparks controversy

Natural Gas Pipeline project sparks controversy
Posted at 5:54 PM, Jan 16, 2023

CHARLOTTE, Tenn. (WTVF) — On a stretch of Tennessee Highway 49, neighbors don't just know each other, they spend a lot of time together too.

"I say, we have a good neighborhood; we have good neighbors," said Dorothy Corlew. "If you need them, they’re there. To me, that’s a good neighbor."

But Corlew, the owner of a farm that's been in her family since the 1800s, isn't exactly welcoming their newest addition.

"It will go all the way through my property," she said.

Energy company Kinder Morgan wants to build a 32-mile long, 30-inch wide natural gas pipeline, that goes all the way to Cumberland City in Stewart County. That's because, over the next five years, the Tennessee Valley Authority will transition the Cumberland City plant from coal power to natural gas.

Dorothy's neighbor, Bob Baird, said he has deep concerns about living that close to the pipeline.

"Our house and our area’s within the explosion zone," said Baird, who has lived in his house for nearly a decade.

Baird is also concerned about what else is close to the proposed pipeline, considering the path is expected to follow one of TVA's high-voltage lines.

"To me, it doesn’t make sense to put a gas line under a high-tension line carrying a lot of electricity," he said.

Could history repeat?

When these neighbors say they have safety concerns, it's because some of them have seen it with their own eyes.

"We looked out our front window, and we could see the blaze and the smoke," said Corlew.

Richard Honeycutt remembers March 16, 1992 better than most.

"We couldn’t get within a half-mile of it because it was so large," said the longtime firefighter.

He was one of many local firefighters battling a 400-acre inferno in Claylick, Tennessee that injured five people and damaged several homes. It was sparked by a natural gas pipeline explosion.

"We lost a lot of houses we couldn’t never even put water on because we couldn’t get close to them," said Honeycutt.

The company that operated the line at the time, Tenneco, has since been acquired by Kinder Morgan.

"It was just really upsetting," said Dorothy. "I don’t want to move, but I’m scared to live here with the pipeline."

This is why these neighbors may spend even more time together figuring out a way to fight off this pipeline.

"I just don’t think it makes sense, doesn’t seem to be safe, doesn’t seem to be well thought out," said Baird.

Kinder Morgan hopes to start construction on the pipeline in 2024 and have it operational by 2025.

Meanwhile, environmental groups like Appalachian Voices and the Sierra Club are planning monthly meetings to get feedback from the community. Meetings will take place on the last Thursday of every month at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church on Highway 48 in Cunningham, Tennessee. Each meeting starts at 6 p.m.

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