FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Frustration is mounting for some residents in Florence County as Dominion Energy moves one step closer to adding a natural gas pipeline, leaving some landowners to feel helpless.

Dominion Energy said the expansion is necessary, but neighbors and environmentalists call it unfair and potentially dangerous.

“There’s nothing I could do to fight them,” property owner Reatha L. Hyman Jefferson said. “I’m just a little bubble in a big pond.”

Jefferson owns property in Florence County near Pamplico and the Great Pee Dee River. It’s been in her family since 1912. Dominion Energy already has a pipeline running underneath, first installed in the 1960s.

Dominion Energy has plans and the rights to install another one after the company ordered the condemnation of roughly 20 properties, including Jefferson’s, using eminent domain.

“They are taking over part of my family’s land to do what they want to do: to make money,” Jefferson said. “What right does Dominion Energy have to come and tell me that they have rights to take over my property?”

The new 16-inch pipeline would stretch 14.5 miles along the river. Dominion Energy said it would serve the growing need for natural gas in Florence, Marion and Horry counties.

In a statement to News13, Dominion Energy said: “Our goal is to select the least impactful path to people and the environment. After its review of plans for the project, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control determined there is reasonable assurance that Dominion Energy will conduct work in a manner consistent with certification requirements, including water quality certification. As we work to secure addition right of way to meet the growing need for safe, reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean energy in the region, Dominion Energy is committed to reaching an agreeable outcome with all property owners. Condemnation proceedings are typically a last resort. We recognize and appreciate the significance of property that has been in families for generations; however, we are unable to acquire an easement on property entirely through negotiations when no clear title exists.”

In court Wednesday, Dominion Energy was ordered to pay affected landowners a few hundred dollars each, depending on acreage.

“How do they feel knowing what they are going to do to other people?” Jefferson said. “These are poor people. These are Black and minority people. They have no other recourse. They can’t pick up and move. They can’t take this piece of land and put it somewhere else. They will have to suffer.”

On top of fairness, activists are also worries about the health and environmental impacts, pointing towards man-made climate change as a consequence. The project calls for clearing a little more than six acres of wetlands.

“We’ve got a problem in this country, and especially this area,” said Kathy Andrews, executive director of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. “We’ve got floods, hurricanes.”

The group hopes a challenge of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s approval filed by the South Carolina Environmental Project prevents the pipeline.

“We don’t want this gas line in our backyard,” Andrews said. “Don’t put it in our backyard. We want to enjoy the river as it is.”

In court, Dominion Energy and just two of the property owners stood before the Master in Equity. The only thing up for negotiation was the amount landowners would receive in a one-time payment.