Community Pressure Mounts to Reject Joelton Natural-Gas Compressor
NASHVILLE, TN – Ahead of a Nov. 15 public hearing, a group of citizens from Joelton is working overtime to convince state and federal leaders that their farming community is the wrong place for a massive 60,000-horsepower natural gas compressor station.
A similar movement from the Antioch community is gaining strength to oppose a slightly smaller 41,000 horsepower natural-gas compressor station planned for that densely populated area.
No other major metropolitan city in the Southeast has compressors larger than 20,000 horsepower.
The groups are supporting Nashville’s efforts to strictly control air pollution and zoning, a move challenged by the companies seeking to build the compressors.
Joelton is “a very, very special place. And we cannot stand by and watch this happen to us,” said Jennifer Mayo, a mother of three including a child with asthma. “It’s just not OK.”
The land purchased for the proposed Joelton compressor borders the Paradise Ridge Community Center, a new parks-and-recreation facility that hosts children for after-school programs and sporting leagues. The center’s walking trails are popular with adults.
The community center is the result of years of planning for neighbors who wanted the area’s children to have a safe place to gather and play. The center also has become the headquarters for the area’s growing and well-organized opposition, which has gotten the support of several local and state leaders, including Congressman Jim Cooper.
Cooper recently wrote to federal regulators that he’s vigorously opposing any plans to “(force) our community to live next to this nuisance.”
Nashville is a city where leaders have worked for decades to plan growth and embrace a cleaner environment, and these proposed compressor stations would negatively affect air quality, according documents made public by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“These proposed industrial facilities exist only to help the gas industry maximize profits,” said Anne Passino, an SELC attorney. “The industry wants to send more gas at higher volumes to the Gulf Coast for export. These compressors have no local benefit. In fact, they’re harmful to our city and our region.”
Passino says there are other locations in less populous areas that are more suitable for these compressors, but the companies are moving forward with the sites most convenient to them. Worse, she says, no matter where the compressors eventually would be located, they would not use the latest technologies to reduce the emissions.
The underground pipelines in the area have moved natural gas through Davidson County for decades. But with a surplus of fracked gas from West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and export facilities available in Louisiana and Texas to ship the fuel overseas, companies want these new compressors to maximize both the speed and volume of gas moving through the pipelines.
The compressors spread noxious fumes and emissions including nitrogen dioxide, which can cause respiratory, especially for children and the elderly. Compressors in other parts of the country have been blamed for spikes in ozone and unhealthy air.
About 11 percent of Davidson County residents have asthma or related issues, according to health records. Compressor emissions can trigger breathing problems in these individuals.
The compressors can also be as loud as a jet airplane when pressurized gas is vented into the atmosphere.
But it’s the worry over emissions that most concerns Jennifer Mayo.
“Those small amounts may not affect my breathing, and may not affect your breathing,” she said. “But when you have a child with asthma living this close, that’s scary.”
About the Southern Envrionmental Law Center:
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.