‘Rest of story’ on biogas plant

Published 6:55 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Stephen Faleski wrote an informative article concerning the Dominion Energy/Smithfield Foods biogas facility in Surry County (“Public hearing on Surry biogas facility postponed until June,” May 4). However, he left out the rest of the story.

The idea of capturing the methane emitted from hog manure  “lagoons,” converting it into biogas (what the industries call  “renewable natural gas”) and injecting that biogas into pipelines to heat homes and buildings sounds commendable, but is it?

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A special meeting was held between the project officials, their attorney and the local neighborhood residents about where this proposed conditioning facility is to be located. It was repeatedly voiced by the residents that we have no objections to the project of converting methane into “natural” gas. Our objection is to their choice of a location for their conditioning facility.

Essentially they want to move a pollution-producing entity from an established industrial site to within a few hundred feet of an occupied neighborhood. We pointed out the fact that at the Proctor’s Bridge Road hog farm there are no local residents nearby to be affected by smells generated or pollution. There is ample space at this hog farm (and perhaps others) for the proposed facility, and at this particular farm the same existing natural gas pipeline into which they would inject the “processed biogas” is within a relatively short distance.

Both Dominion and Smithfield are refusing to consider our arguments. Why?

Consider this: In Surry, Sussex, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, this 65-mile pipeline, in order to get to the proposed conditioning facility, would have to cross underneath the Blackwater River, Seacock Swamp and Assamoosick Swamp in seven different locations, at a depth of  “14 feet beneath the substrate, using the horizontal directional drilling method,” according to the Virginia MRC permit #2021-2453. In the event of a leak, who would know?

And last but not least, government-backed funding and credits for biogas projects has poured in, along with supportive legislation and policy. Legislation in N.C. was tweaked so that a statewide moratorium that banned new or expanded hog farms would allow them, if they have a biogas project attached. The farms, or corporations that own them, can sell the biogas to other companies wishing to offset their generated emissions because biogas is supposed to be cleaner than fossil fuel gas.


Helen Eggleston