As Policy Watch environmental reporter Lisa Sorg reported yesterday (“State Bureau of Investigation unit prepared “threat assessment” of Atlantic Coast Pipeline protestors”), state law enforcement officials have been spying on, or at least, monitoring, opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — the highly controversial energy project that threatens to bring significant environmental harm to eastern North Carolina in exchange for highly questionable benefits. This is from Sorg’s story:
“The state’s surveillance and counter-terrorism unit, the Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC), warned law enforcement officials that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could attract “violent extremists” who are opposed to the natural gas project in North Carolina, a document obtained by Policy Watch shows.
According to a December 2017 unclassified “threat assessment” (see below), the ACP ‘has the potential to become a regional focal point for ideologically or politically motivated violent extremist actors inspired to commit acts intended to disrupt and halt ACP construction.’”
I suppose there could be something to this — there are always a few folks out there in just about every cause who are prepared to go too far — but it sure sounds extremely farfetched. North Carolina has been home to scores of environmental protest down through the years (invariably with good reason) and there is no record of surreptitious violent action. Indeed, in the overwhelming majority of cases — this one included — the protests are driven by activists committed to peaceful and very public action.
In other words, all one needs to do to monitor the anti-pipeline movement is to, well, read their press releases — like the one below that came out yesterday:
Clean Air and Water Advocates Launch Pipeline Monitoring Effort
RALEIGH, NC (August 1, 2018) – Today, a group of clean air and water advocates announced they would monitor construction of the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) for violations of commonsense environmental protections required by state and federal permits. Trained volunteers and staff with the Sierra Club, Sound Rivers, Winyah Rivers and Cape Fear River Watch will monitor ACP construction activities by water, land, and air to ensure potential violations are reported to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The initiative will be known as the North Carolina Pipeline Watch (NCPW).
“The fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline is designed to maximize profits for polluting corporations, while our environmental safeguards are designed to protect our people and communities,” said Kelly Martin, Director of the Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign for the Sierra Club. “We helped launch the initiative to ensure the ACP doesn’t get away with violating the commonsense environmental protections that keep our air and water clean,” she added.
The NCPW is partly modeled on the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative, a program in Virginia that uses volunteer observers and local residents to find suspected regulatory compliance violations and report them to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. A similar effort recently created enough public pressure in Virginia to halt construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in that state after reporting more than 150 violations to the VA DEQ.
Volunteers will observe the pipeline route by foot, boat, and airplane in order to spot suspected violations, and look for spills and pollution. There is also a form online at www.ncpipelinewatch.org so residents in the path of the pipeline can report problems they find on their property or sign up to host a training near them. Experts will review the submissions and report confirmed violations to DEQ for enforcement.
“We can’t have companies trafficking in fracked gas playing fast and loose with measures that protect our communities and waterways from pollution like ACP has in other states,” said Forrest English, Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper. “Our goal is to hold ACP accountable every step of the way,” he added.
“We’re disappointed that construction of this risky and unnecessary fracked gas pipeline has been approved but we will continue to advocate and engage our community to protect the precious water resources of the Lumber River watershed through monitoring and enforcement of requirements,” said Christine Ellis, Executive Director of Winyah Rivers Foundation.
“Threats to waterways from a construction project of this size will be enormous. If history is a guide, failures will happen. Our volunteers will be watching the project carefully, reporting violations in an effort to protect our waterways and hold the ACP accountable,” said Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper.
The organizations involved in the effort include Sierra Club, Sound Rivers, Winyah Rivers Foundation, and Cape Fear River Watch.
Sound Rivers is a place based conservation organization representing over 3,000 members with a mission to monitor and protect the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River watersheds covering nearly one quarter of North Carolina, and to preserve the health and beauty of the river basins through environmental justice. For more information, visit www.soundrivers.org.