North Carolina Group Speaks Out about the Pipeline

Most of the opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that we hear about is from Virginia and West Virginia.  This does not mean, however, that all of the opposition is from those two states.  There is also opposition in North Carolina.  Fortunately, a member who lives in North Carolina has called that opposition to our attention. Groups have formed to oppose the controversial pipeline, including one called No Pipeline Johnston County.

The proposed pipeline would extend, north to south, almost all the way across North Carolina.  If built it would enter the state in Northhampton County and go down through rivers, wetlands and farmlands in Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson, and Cumberland Counties before ending in Robeson County.

One of the groups that has expressed concern about the proposed pipeline is the North Carolina Coastal Federation.  It recently made comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The North Carolina Coastal Federation is a member-supported 501(c)3 that is focused on protecting and restoring the North Carolina coast.  Its mission is to empower coastal residents and visitors to protect and restore the water quality and critically important natural habitats of the North Carolina coast.

In those comments, it touches on some of the flaws in the Draft EIS that other commenters have noted.  One is completeness.  The point of an Environmental Impact Statement is to gather all the information and let the public comment on it before making a decision.  The agency starts with what is called “scoping” where it decides, with the benefit of public comments, what all it is going to study.  Then it decides what it will study, gathers all the information on those topics, lets the public see what the information it has gathered, makes some tentative conclusions, and then publishes a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

That is not what the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has done here.  The letter to FERC points out that the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) has requested for the applicants to complete biological surveys for sensitive and state-listed species, including plants, non-mussel aquatic species, and freshwater mussels. These surveys are not completed, as 15.2 miles have not been surveyed, at all, for the aforementioned biological resources.  Instead of waiting for the survey, doing an analysis, and then publishing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the Draft simply states that these surveys will be “completed in 2017.”  Instead of the analysis of information it is supposed to be, FERC has turned the Draft EIS into another request for information.

The comments also discuss the problem of pipeline leaks.  They point out that the agency responsible for inspection for leaks is so poorly staffed that the proposed pipeline will be essentially self-inspected.  This is not acceptable.

Finally, the comments point out that the project’s economic benefits are overstated.  It points out that the construction jobs will be temporary and that, once completed, the pipeline will require only twenty permanent workers.