'Totally violated': Fayetteville community upset at unannounced construction of gas regulator system

ByMonique John via WTVD logo
Friday, September 23, 2022
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A community in Fayetteville is outraged that a gas company suddenly built a distribution system near their homes without warning.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A community in Fayetteville is outraged that a gas company suddenly built a distribution system near their homes without warning.

"I feel totally violated," Jackie Sherrod said.

"I believe our property value will be going down because of this and it's like, what can we do?" Brenda Quick said.

The eyesore that the community is upset about is a regulator gas system now installed on Yadkin Road. Piedmont Natural Gas installed the system to regulate the pressure and flow of natural gas to customers in the area--an addition the company considers an upgrade for customers.

But some customers living in the area don't agree. Their frustration is compounded by the fact that many of them are older people who have lived in their homes and kept them in their families for decades--some going on for 50 years. They point out that their aging health is not equipped to withstand the possible risks that could come from the regulator station. Furthermore, they're indignant that they're dealing with such a large disruption outside the homes they have settled into for retirement.

"It's disgusting. I don't think anybody here would want something like this in their neighborhood," Sherrod said.

Construction on the regulator system started more than a month ago. That's when people living in the area started asking questions. But they say they were largely ignored.

"They don't care about us," Sherrod said. "They don't care where we live."

Some expressed the sentiment that Piedmont felt emboldened to come into their neighborhood with the obstructive equipment because of their marginalized identities as Black residents. Juanita Hill said it appeared Piedmont leadership chose their area for the system because the company assumed the residents wouldn't feel empowered enough to push back.

"They underestimated us," Hill said.

The residents further contended that Piedmont was being callous and insulting toward the many veterans living in the community.

"This community, more than it being predominantly Black, is full of veterans who sacrificed their lives for this country," Yvonne Brown said.

Brown said her father is one of the many veterans in the community; her home is the one her parents built decades ago. She is now in the area to care for her father.

"Many active-duty people lived here in the '60s and '70s. It just so happened things have evolved to where they felt they were in their very comfortable retirement homes. No more--it's a total disrespect," Brown said. "That's what I think about Duke and Piedmont. They don't respect veterans who have sacrificed for this country. That's the double-whammy. They don't respect veterans and they don't respect people of color.

Residents also said they are anxious about drones that Duke announced Thursday will begin flying in their neighborhood to inspect overhead lines and equipment. Residents say it's an invasion of their privacy, and want the company to find an alternative method to inspect the area.

"As far as businesses are concerned and neighborhoods, it's going to always be about a dollar. And I think they preach that they look at safety and people concerns and all that stuff, but that's secondary to the dollar that they make," Bradford Ruffin said.

Councilmember D.J. Haire represents the area where the regulator system was installed. He said he plans to meet with the gas company and upset residents next week. He hopes to get the two groups together to discuss possible solutions.

But the damage to the company may already be done.

"As I told their P.R. person, this was bad PR. Because no one spoke to anyone. You just did (it)," Haire said.

Duke Energy is the parent company of Piedmont Natural Gas; it released the following statement:

"We appreciate the feedback we received and recognize there is an opportunity to improve our communications for this project ... This upgrade will benefit the community by helping ensure we continue to operate a safe and efficient system while meeting the growing needs of natural gas customers in Fayetteville."