More than 20 Democratic legislators, led by Rep. Pricey Harrison of Guilford County, sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking it to issue a stop work order on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline while it reassess the need for the $7.8 billion project. The letter, dated April 12, also asks FERC to suspend the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, a requirement for energy projects, during the reassessment.
The ACP’s primary owners are Dominion Energy and Duke Energy. If built, it would start at a fracked gas operation in West Virginia and route more than 600 miles through Virginia, eastern North Carolina and into South Carolina. The project, though has been stalled by successful legal challenges in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. It is nearly two years behind schedule and at least $2 billion over its initial budget.
The cost increase, the lawmakers wrote, “would be passed on to captive ratepayers.” Instead of developing renewable energy projects, the utilities focus on the ACP “would lock not just North Carolina but the entire Southeast region into decades of climate-disrupting fossil fuel use,” incompatible with the state’s climate goals established in Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80.
The letter notes says that the utilities have overstated the need for natural gas. Duke Energy’s latest Integrated Resource Plan, essentially an energy blueprint for the next 15 years, delays planned natural gas plants by five years, and its “first power plant that might need more gas supply is not proposed to begin operating until many years after the ACP is supposed to be in service.”
The utilities’ and supporters’ rationale for building the ACP is that it would jumpstart the economy in eastern North Carolina. However, subsidiaries of Duke and Dominion are the main customers for the proposed ACP gas in North Carolina. The average cost for a manufacturing plant to connect to the ACP is at least $1 million.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have introduced bills this session to thwart renewable energy in North Carolina, an apparent rebuke to Gov. Cooper’s climate goals. Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican from Onslow County, filed legislation that would ban wind energy projects within 100 miles of the coast, ostensibly to prevent them from interfering with military training exercises. However, at a committee meeting last week, the former head of the Defense Department’s Site Clearinghouse, which works with wind energy developers to avoid those impacts, said there have been no cases of wind farms interfering with military bases in the US.
Yesterday five Republicans co-sponsored House Bill 726, which would repeal the state’s Renewable Portfolio Energy Standard. Passed in 2007, the REPS was the first in the Southeast. It set legal benchmarks for utilities to provide, either through generation or purchase, a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources. Currently, it is 10 percent. Duke Energy previously told the utilities commission that it is meeting those goals.