Meanwhile, Over in North Carolina

When last the Voice reported on North Carolina’s review of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (December, 2017), North Carolina was still asking for more information from the developers.  North Carolina’s decision on whether or not to approve the pipeline would depend upon the information it received.

The question is whether or not North Carolina would certify that the pipeline construction would not cause a violation of North Carolina’s water quality standards. This is the same question that West Virginia had the opportunity to consider.  West Virginia declined the opportunity to review the permit and possibly impose conditions upon it to protect West Virginia’s waters.  See the story in the January, 2018, issue of The Highlands Voice.

North Carolina must have gotten the information it thought it needed.  In late January, 2018, it issued the 401 Certification.  In doing so, it said,

DEQ left no stone unturned in our exhaustive eight month review of every aspect of the 401 application,” said DEQ Secretary Michael Regan, in a press release on Friday. “Our job doesn’t end with the granting of the permit but continues as we hold the company accountable to live up to its commitments.”

While the Department of Environmental Quality may have been confident in its decision, others were not so sure.  An attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center expressed skepticism both about the completeness of the data that the DEQ relied upon and the ability of the DEQ to follow up and hold the company accountable.

The approval was accompanied by an announcement that two of the developers of the pipeline, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, had agreed to put $57.8 million into a state fund to help offset the pipeline’s environmental costs.  North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s office has announced the state would use the money to mitigate damages to natural resources, invest in renewable energy and promote economic development in the eight affected counties.

This agreement has left North Carolinians scratching their heads, calling foul, or both.  The money would not be subject to the usual legislative appropriation process, something some object to.  The Governor does not want to call it a penalty; North Carolina law places restrictions upon how a penalty would be spent.  Or is it a bribe, a word that has passed the lips of some North Carolinians?  Although the payment is not linked to the approval, the developers did get a needed approval at the same time that they agreed to pay the money.

In any event, North Carolina has now followed in West Virginia’s footsteps and approved the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  How it went about it has given them a lot to sort out.