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Joelton Residents Speak Out Against Plans For A Natural Gas Compressor

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Posted at 10:35 PM, Jun 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-09 01:06:50-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A sea of yellow t-shirts announced Joelton residents and their supporters as they fought a plan for a natural gas compressor in their neighborhood.

“Nobody wants to live in an industrial site,” said one resident.

They showed up at the planning commission meeting Thursday to tell commissioners to vote "yes" on an ordinance by District 1 Councilman Lonnell Matthews.

“We do not want to see this type of development in our residential areas,” Matthews said.

The law would force companies to build compressor stations in industrial-zoned land only. Right now, they could technically build anywhere with federal approval.

“Tennessee Gas Pipeline has operated gas pipelines safely in communities throughout Tennessee more than 20 communities including in Davidson County and Joelton for 60 years,” said Jake Larson with the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. He and other representatives pointed out the compressor station would fuel more than 100 construction jobs and add access to natural gas to Tennessee residents.

But dozens voiced their concerns about noise, possible pollution from leaks and spills and the compressor’s effect on property values.

After around 40 minutes of public comment and discussion, commissioners approved the ordinance, siding unanimously with neighbors.

If approved by Council, the law would impact the entire county. But Joelton resident and organic farmer Lori Birckhead, who has helped spearhead the grass roots action, may still end up with a compressor next to her organic farm.

“Plain and simple this bill as drafted is preempted by federal law as it applies to my client's project,” said James Weaver, who represented Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co’s parent company Kinder Morgan.

Pipeline compressors have been federally regulated and Kinder Morgan could get a permit despite a local ordinance.

But Commissioners decided that despite a possible federal over-ruling, they wanted to put into code places they believed these kinds of activities should take place: industrial zones only.

That left the issue up in the air with no real way to know what to expect down the pipeline.

The ordinance was set to go before the Metro Council July 21.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline said the company already owns the 80 acres it plans to use for the station, which will service existing pipelines. Representatives said they plan to use trees and brush to block the compressor’s appearance and sound, which neighbors worry would disrupt the tranquil, rural area.