Norfolk mayor addresses controversial Southside Connector pipeline


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander is talking about the highly controversial Virginia Natural Gas Southside Connector Pipeline. 

Despite protests and court proceedings, the pipeline is moving forward. The mayor sat down with 10 On Your Side and one of the takeaways is that the pipeline is moving forward, and it’s due to victories in court for the pipeline.

10 On Your Side asked Mayor Alexander about the letter written to City Council from VNG President Jim Kibler. In that letter is a lot that gives Alexander pause. He’s concerned about what is written about fear mongering and what is written about the city.

“I agree 100 percent,” says Mayor Alexander, who thinks VNG has failed in transparency on the gas pipeline project.  “VNG has not been transparent.  Public engagement is good, as it should have been.  There are still questions on the depth of the pipeline, and what are the probabilities of the pipeline failing.”

Alexander is equally adamant that the courts, the state corporation commission, and federal permitting agencies all agree the pipeline is going through, should go through, legally should go through, and any hope that an escape clause in city easements to stop the project will ultimately fail in court for the city. 

“If Norfolk tried to exerciser a reversion clause under safety, that question has already been answered by a court of record.”

Mayor Alexander is concerned VNG and its president, Jim Kibler, have been tone deaf in the public hearing part of this controversial project, “I disagree with his assertion of concerns the city has raised, and residents have raised.  I disagree when he writes that it is fear mongering. These are legitimate concerns.”

Mayor Alexander worries about residents’ concerns about safety, and Kibler’s assertion the chance of a disaster is one in 10 million. Kibler says that is the same percentage chance of having a part of a plane fall out of the sky, land on a house, and kill someone.

“I read that.  I want an engineering report quantified by an engineer … to tell me about safety.”

Kibler also stated in a letter response to the city’s concerns that he thinks the treatment VNG has received may make other business question whether Norfolk is friendly to business.  Kibler writes to the council through City Manager Doug Smith, “I find it important to ask the city whether it reasonably believes the treatment we have received is consistent with the image it wishes to project to others interested in investing in the city’s future. The route is the safest route through the city and minimizes to the greatest extents possible any impact to private landowners.” 

Mayor Alexander says, “Mr. Kibler and VNG think it’s unfriendly to business because we asked about these important issues.  I disagree with him about that…we need to be concerned about the military, the maritime industry, the port, and neighborhoods…we  are very business friendly, we are open for business. 

In that same letter Kibler finally admitted the 24 inch pipeline is not a distribution line, but is a high powered transmission line which are the same ones involved in the worst gas line explosions.

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