Environment

Water quality permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline still in limbo; DEQ makes fourth request for info

The water quality permit application filed by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, still lacks key information, including an analysis of certain claims regarding economic development and the purported demand for more natural gas.

In a letter sent yesterday to the ACP, the Division of Water Resources asked for a fuller analysis of pipeline’s potential impacts to water quality and to the economy in specific areas of the affected counties. ACP did provide maps as suggested by DWR staff, but it lacked analysis and specificity. “A detailed analysis of each area’s potential for project-induced growth was not completed,” the letter read, “nor was there a detailed discussion” of existing or future regulations required protect water quality.

The construction and operation of the ACP would present serious water quality issues. The pipeline would cross major rivers and streams, as well as wetlands. Construction in parts of the Neuse River, would be particularly invasive using a cofferdam method. It essentially segments a part of the river, drains it and then builds walls to temporarily separate it from the rest of the waterway.

Aquatic organisms, including endangered and threatened species, and their habitats could be temporarily or permanently harmed, according to federal environmental documents.

The majority owners of ACP, LLC, are Dominion Energy and Duke Energy. The pipeline would start at a fracked gas operation in West Virginia and continue 600 miles through Virginia and eight counties in eastern North Carolina: Northampton, Halifax, Nash, Edgecombe, Cumberland, Sampson and Robeson.

These are some of the poorest areas of the state. Proponents of the pipeline promise that the project will create jobs and spark industry growth in economically distressed areas. However, no definitive data has been produced to prove that claim.

“The analysis should include a specific discussion of industries that need additional natural gas capacity to operate in North Carolina,” the letter went on.

Proponents and the utilities have also contended that as the population increases, there would be an insufficient supply of natural gas to meet demand. However, most of the natural gas transported by the ACP would be transported to the utilities to fuel their plants and dispatch the energy to the grid. Opponents have pointed out that there is no natural gas shortage, nor an indication of one in the future. Renewable sources, such as solar and wind, they say, could provide the energy.

The North Carolina portion of the 600-mile pipeline would begin in Pleasant Hill, in Northampton County, and is supposed to end in Prospect, in Robeson County. However, last month a Dominion Energy executive made off-hand public remarks implying that the ACP could continue into South Carolina. That apparently prompted DWR to ask the ACP to to explain their reasons for ending the pipeline in Prospect.

On Nov. 22, Prospect was the site of a leak from a Piedmont natural gas compressor station that emitted 1,500 pounds of natural gas into the air. Nearby residents told the Robesonian newspaper that they were awakened in the middle of the night by a noise that sounded like “a 747 taking off.”

ACP has submitted several other permit applications that are under review by respective divisions within the Department of Environmental Quality:

  • The Division of Air Quality is expected to decide on ACP’s permit for the Northampton County compressor station by Dec. 15.
  • Next week the Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources is scheduled to begin reviewing stormwater permit applications for portions of the route in Cumberland and Nash counties.
  • On the Nov. 6, the Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources disapproved of the project’s sediment and erosion control plans. ACP has since submitted additional information; review of the updated plans is nearly complete.

 

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