Environment

Duke, Dominion ask feds to fast-track Atlantic Coast Pipeline application — this month

Tom Clark opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. He spoke against the $5.5 billion project at a recent listening session hosted by state environmental officials. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

The owners of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have written a letter to federal regulators asking them to approve the controversial $5.5 billion project this month — at least 30 days sooner than scheduled. In a Sept. 7 letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, officials from Duke Energy, Dominion Energy and Southern Company Gas imply that the pipeline application should take precedence over pending cases.

The letter claims that “the state’s actions for water quality certifications and other state requirements are proceeding and align with our anticipated construction schedule.” That might be true for West Virginia and Virginia. However, North Carolina environmental officials have not yet decided whether to grant the applicants’ water quality certification and buffer application. That determination is not due until the middle of this month, and can’t be made until the pipeline owners submit a required sediment and erosion control plan.

The lack of information provided to the state is not unusual for this project. ACP contractors who wrote the original draft and final application to FERC delivered it with incomplete or late information. The environmental justice portion of the application, for example, was fewer than five pages — even though most of the 160 miles of the ACP will travel through low-income, Black and American Indian communities.

At public hearings and listening sessions, there has been robust public opposition, albeit support from chambers of commerce and economic development groups to the project. However, despite the project’s apparent urgency in “meeting our contract obligations,” among other considerations, the ACP could run into additional roadblocks to prevent it from beginning the “tree clearing in November 2017.”

With the recent Senate confirmation of two members, FERC just achieved a quorum and now must plow through  a backlog of applications. And a federal court ruled late last month that FERC had inadequately considered the effects of climate change and greenhouse gases in approving a different pipeline project.

The letter’s sense of urgency dovetails with a greenwashing strategy unveiled late last month. The ACP announced it would cultivate pollinator plants along a portion of the utility corridor — a clear strategy to assuage environmental groups that oppose the project.

 

Atlantic Coast Pipeline to FERC by LisaSorg on Scribd

Environment, NC Budget and Tax Center

Here’s how much climate change will cost each county in North Carolina

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but an economic issue as well that impacts all 100 counties across North Carolina. As the country experiences an increasing number of billion-dollar disasters, the challenge for us all is to minimize the harm to families and communities and plan for the future. Since 1980, we have seen the number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the U.S. increase by 400 percent. Profound weather shifts from rising sea levels and flooding to drought and forest fires require effective preparation, planning and response from our leaders.

The financial impact is increasingly relevant to county and state governments as federal officials, despite increasing disasters, consider scaling back federal assistance, and push states to take on greater responsibility for disaster preparation and recovery with their own resources. Here in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew displaced thousands of families and caused $4.8 billion in damages across 50 counties we all saw that the federal withdrawal approach did not work and instead hurt our state. North Carolina policymakers have made just a $300 million commitment to Eastern NC to date despite documented unmet need of nearly $900 million.

A recent study published by Science that represents a major breakthrough for the field of climate economics finds climate change will aggravate economic inequality in the U.S. as there are “enormous disparities in how rising temperatures will affect American communities.” After simulating the costs of global warming in excruciating detail, modeling every day of weather in every U.S. county during the 21st century, the study finds the “South and lower Midwest will bear the brunt of the economic costs associated with climate change through the end of the century.” Coastal communities are projected to take a toll from rising seas and strengthening hurricanes while the South will be hurt by a decline in farming caused by rising temperatures, along with increasing energy demands to keep up with the heat.

For North Carolina this means many poor and rural parts of the state will be affected the most. Below is a sortable table that shows how much of its income each county in North Carolina stands to lose through the end of the century; linking climate projections with economic effects like mortality, labor productivity, energy demand and crop yields. Based on the analysis it is clear that in order to protect North Carolina’s economy and quality of life for people today and future generations, the state and all 100 counties must be cognizant of climate change and plan for its economic effects – especially in communities most in need.

Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Climate Change Cost in Each County of North Carolina

CountyTotal Estimated Damages: % of GDP
(percentage of economy lost)
Agricultural Damage
(changes in average yields for
corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton)
Alamance6.7-32.8
Alexander4.7-31.4
Alleghany-2.60
Anson9.1-19.9
Ashe-1.20
Avery-1.50
Beaufort6-5.5
Bertie89.4
Bladen8.9-22.4
Brunswick6.3-22.1
Buncombe3.60
Burke5.9-35.4
Cabarrus5.8-33.7
Caldwell6.6-35
Camden3.7-12.8
Carteret5.7-22.4
Caswell8.2-20.4
Catawba5.4-21
Chatham4.6-27.6
Cherokee8.3-47.3
Chowan7.521.4
Clay1.9-13.7
Cleveland6.8-5.4
Columbus8.4-18.4
Craven5.7-1.7
Cumberland5.4-15.9
Currituck4.2-11.2
Dare3.90
Davidson6.2-31.1
Davie3.7-25.1
Duplin7.9-17.2
Durham4.6-15
Edgecombe8.91.8
Forsyth5-30.1
Franklin5-21.3
Gaston5.56.7
Gates7.1-2
Graham5.10
Granville5.2-16.3
Greene8.8-9.1
Guilford4.7-25.7
Halifax718.1
Harnett6.8-11.6
Haywood-0.734.2
Henderson2.8-38.6
Hertford9-3.7
Hoke7.6-7.5
Hyde7.8-6.2
Iredell3.2-21.3
Jackson-0.70
Johnston4.9-9.3
Jones7.310.4
Lee6.8-11.6
Lenoir8-5.7
Lincoln5.3-22.6
Macon2.40
Madison2.60
Martin822.6
McDowell-0.517.9
Mecklenburg3.3-18.7
Mitchell-0.20
Montgomery7.6-4.4
Moore6.1-18
Nash6.6-5.8
New Hanover5.9-39.8
Northampton7.816.2
Onslow3.6-11.8
Orange3-29.4
Pamlico6.9-10.5
Pasquotank6.2-14.3
Pender7.9-18.3
Perquimans6.72.9
Person5-15.5
Pitt5.8-7.5
Polk6.9-1.5
Randolph6.5-26
Richmond9.20.6
Robeson11-24.7
Rockingham6.5-15.2
Rowan7.7-27.9
Rutherford8.43.7
Sampson7.7-8.8
Scotland10-7.1
Stanly7.7-10.4
Stokes4.7-19.6
Surry3.5-22.7
Swain2.70
Transylvania8.4-66.9
Tyrrell7.9-17.3
Union4.5-26
Vance8-27.8
Wake3.1-24.5
Warren8.3-14
Washington8.2-12.5
Watauga-0.60
Wayne6.9-15.9
Wilkes4.9-50.1
Wilson7-9.3
Yadkin4.7-24.4
Yancey-8.10
Environment

Groundwater contaminated near Chemours plant; DEQ issues Notice of Violation

A Google satellite image of the Chemours plant and surrounding businesses in Fayetteville. To the right of the frame is the Cape Fear River.

Thirteen of 14 monitoring wells near Chemours’s Fayetteville plant exceeded state groundwater standards for GenX and other perfluorinated compounds, prompting state environmental officials to issue a Notice of Violation to the company.

The NC Department of Environmental Quality announced the results today. The groundwater monitoring wells are not a source of drinking water.

DEQ and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services also alerted health officials in Bladen and Cumberland counties to the preliminary test results. The state said it will perform initial testing for people who live near Chemours while requiring the company to produce a comprehensive testing and compliance plan.

The immediate area around the plant, which lies south of Fayetteville, is woods and a solar farm, but there are homes within a mile and Camp Dixie, a summer retreat for kids is within two miles. The flow of groundwater depends on several factors, including slope, soil type and the nature of the bedrock.

An information session is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 14, from 6–7:30 p.m. at St. Pauls Middle School, 526 W. Shaw St., in St. Pauls to answer residents’ questions about the contamination.

Additional results are pending from two more labs that are testing the samples.

Environment

Dominion, Duke try to sweeten Atlantic Coast Pipeline deal with butterflies and bees

(Photo: Creative Commons)

Faced with tenacious public opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the project’s owners are trying an old tactic: greenwashing. Duke Energy and Dominion Energy have announced  that they will plant new habitats for butterflies, bees and other pollinator insects on up to 750 acres along the route of the proposed pipeline, including in Eastern North Carolina.

The ACP website correctly notes that pollinator populations, particularly bees and butterflies, have sharply declined in recent years due to the loss of suitable habitat. (Another factor is neonicotinoid pesticides, which the website omitted.)

“The Pollinator Habitat Initiative will help address this decline and create hundreds of acres of new pollinator habitat by replanting the ACP right-of-way with native grasses and wildflowers that attract the species. In addition to insects, pollinator habitat is also beneficial for other wildlife like quail, turkey and songbirds.”

The utilities fail to mention that the ACP itself will destroy vital habitats. Nor does it discuss any herbicides that would be necessary to keep the rights-of-way accessible and clear of unwanted plants.

Even the most robust pollinator program could not offset the environmental harm wrought by the 600-mile pipeline. According to federal environmental documents, construction and maintenance of the ACP would damage wetlands and waterways, both temporarily and permanently; cause deforestation; displace birds, wildlife and aquatic organisms, even those designated endangered and rare. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has alleged that the pipeline owners would minimize or mitigate the harm.

More than 160 miles of the pipeline would pass through eight counties in eastern North Carolina.

Unlike eminent domain, which can be used to take property for the pipeline (with some amount of compensation to landowners), the pollinator program is voluntary.

Chambers of commerce, county governments and economic development officials are advocating for the pipeline, asserting that it will bring industry and jobs to low-wealth areas. But FERC’s own documents show that only 18 permanent jobs would be created in North Carolina. And most of the natural gas would fuel Dominion’s and Duke’s power plants, with only a small portion being available for industry or residences to connect to. Those connections are expensive, costing thousands of dollars.

At public forums and hearings, citizens have overwhelmingly opposed the project for environmental, public safety and social justice reasons. The pipeline would route through African-American and American Indian communities, many of them low-income.

Environment

DEQ files suit against Chemours, says it will suspend company’s wastewater permit unless demands are met

Lawmakers on the Environmental Review Commission and DEQ officials toured the Sweeney water treatment plant in Wilmington last month before a public hearing on GenX. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

The NC Department of Environmental Quality and state justice department officials filed a civil complaint against Chemours in Bladen County Court today, asking a judge to force the company to stop discharging all perfluoronated chemicals from its Fayetteville plant into the Cape Fear River.

Attorneys with the NC Department of Justice are representing the state in the case.

DEQ has also begun suspending the company’s wastewater discharge permit for failing to disclose the release of GenX in its effluent. In a strongly worded letter sent today to Chemours, Jay Zimmerman, director of DEQ’s Division of Water Resources, said a review of the discharge permit found “no evidence” indicating the company had told the state it was discharging GenX into the river.

On Aug. 26, 2010, Zimmerman wrote, officials with DuPont met with state environmental officials and assured them that while it would be producing GenX in its manufacturing, it would not be discharging the chemical from the plant. Instead, DuPont maintained GenX would be contained in a “closed loop system.”

DuPont spun off Chemours into a separate company after lawsuits related to discharge of a similar chemical, C8 in West Virginia and Ohio.

DEQ found no evidence that Chemours ever disclosed the GenX discharge until June 2017, when scientific and media reports about the chemical in Wilmington’s drinking water — as well as areas of Brunswick and Pender counties — forced the company’s hand. After DEQ demanded it stop discharging GenX into the river, Chemours finally did so in mid-July.

Nor did Chemours provide health or safety studies about the chemical to state environmental officials until this year — and only at DEQ’s insistence, the letter said.

“DuPont and Chemours’s ongoing misrepresentations and inadequate disclosures … have shielded important information from DEQ and the public,” Zimmerman wrote.

In order to keep its permit, Chemours must stop discharging Nafion byproducts — recently discovered in testing by DEQ and the EPA — by Sept. 8. The company also must cease any release of perfluorinated compounds by Oct. 20, and provide full responses to DEQ’s requests for information. So far, DEQ wrote, the information provided has been incomplete.

Zimmerman was among 19 DEQ officials, including former Assistant Secretary Tom Reeder, who received an email last November from NC State University scientist Detlef Knappe about the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear and treated drinking water. Reeder, who now works for Sen. Phil Berger as a policy advisor, did not relate this information to the new administration. It’s unclear why Division of Water Resources staff did not alert incoming Secretary Michael Regan to the email. Regan has said that he did not about GenX in the Cape Fear until June.

It’s also unclear why lawmakers, who have easy access to Reeder, have not publicly said whether they have met with him, or if so, what information they have gleaned. Reeder has not returned messages from NCPW.

Today’s action by DEQ was prompted in part by a deadline set by lawmakers in House Bill 56. In that legislation, which passed both chambers but has yet to be signed by Gov. Cooper, the legislature gave DEQ until Sept. 8 to issue a notice of violation to Chemours or to provided a detailed report explaining why it had not done so.

 

60-Day Notice of Intent – Chemours by LisaSorg on Scribd