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.