LUMBERTON — A letter from the developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline requesting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to certify their project as quickly as possible is not “unique,” according to Tamara Young-Allen, a commission spokesperson.
Since Aug. 10 when two new commissioners joined the five-member commission that has not had enough members to form a quorum for six months, a number of applicants of pipelines across the country have made similar requests to expedite their projects, said Young-Allen. Without a quorum, the commission can’t act on applications.
Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is proposed to run about 600 miles from West Virginia, through Virginia and North Carolina, before ending in Pembroke, are using the letter to accuse the three companies involved in the project of trying to get commission approval of their pipeline before all federal and state agencies have finished their review of the effect there will be on humans and the environment. The companies involved in developing the pipeline are Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Company Gas.
“… We respectfully request that the commission issue approval of the ACP certificate in September so that initial construction activities and tree clearing can begin in November and conclude in early 2018,” the letter reads.
Aaron Ruby, a Dominion spokesman, said the letter was not a request to expedite the approval process.
“With two new commissioners recently joining FERC, it’s an appropriate time to reaffirm the urgent public need for the project and request a timely decision. The project has been exhaustively reviewed by more than a dozen state and federal agencies for almost three years now. It’s been a rigorous and transparent process, and it’s left no stone unturned,” Ruby said in a statement. “We’ve simply asked the FERC to make a timely decision on the basis of its own favorable environmental report and along the same time-frame as the work being done by other agencies.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission environmental staff issued the final environmental impact study for the Atlantic Coast project in July. The final statement concluded that although it would have some adverse environmental impacts, those impacts could be minimized or mitigated.
Young-Allen called the “expedite” allegations of pipeline opponents a “misconception.”
“How can the process be expedited when no one knows when the commission will make a decision? The commission never announces when a decision will be made,” she said. “They might make a decision tomorrow, a month from now, or not until Christmas.”
Young-Allen added, however, that the commission traditionally tries to act on a project application within 18 to 24 months. The process to develop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will have been ongoing for two years on Friday.
The Rev. Mac Legerton, the executive director of the Center of Community Action and a strong Robeson County opponent of the pipeline, said the letter is just a “PR move” to get the federal permit issued quickly so that pressure is put on the states to issue their permits, including permits for water quality and air quality.
“Getting this permit has nothing to do for when construction on the pipeline can start,” Legerton said. “Construction can’t start until state permits are issued and at this time no state permits have been issued.”
Legerton said that the companies know that there is no way they can possibly begin construction in November even if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission grants its permit.
“There is no way they can begin construction and they know it,” he said. “That’s deceitful and dishonest to the public when they say construction can start and they know that is not true.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.