Pipeline faces another hurdle

By: Staff report

RALEIGH — A state environmental agency has put up another hurdle for the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources issued a disapproval letter Jan. 4 to the pipeline’s builders. The letter addresses the builders’ erosion and sediment control plan for the northern portion of the pipeline route proposed for North Carolina.

The letter also informs Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC management that it can file a new plan or appeal the disapproval.

“Pending approval of a revised plan or a decision on an appeal, commencement of any land-disturbing activity associated with this project shall constitute a violation of the Sedimentation Pollution Control Act of 1973,” the disapproval letter reads in part.

The approval process for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline that would start in West Virginia and end near Pembroke has hit other snags in recent weeks.

The DEQ’s Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources issued requests on Dec. 20 for additional information for the two general stormwater permit applications submitted by Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC. The pipeline’s builders were informed that same day that an individual stormwater permit will be required for a proposed contractor’s yard to be located in Cumberland County and no application for that permit has been received.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s partners are Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas. A Dominion spokesman recently expressed optimism about the approval process being completed soon.

“We’ve received most of our state and federal approvals over the last few months. Only a few approvals remain, which we expect to receive by early next year,” Aaron Ruby said in mid-December.

The state DEQ already has issued erosion and sediment control permits for Robeson, Cumberland and Sampson counties.

Legal hurdles also stand in the way of the pipeline’s construction.

A petition was filed Oct. 6 in Robeson County Superior Court asking the court to review the county Board of Commissioners’ decision on Aug. 7 to approve a conditional-use permit that cleared the way for the construction of a pipeline metering and regulating station, and a tower on N.C. 710 near Pembroke. The petitioners are Dwayne Goins and Robie Joe Goins, owners of property where the proposed pipeline is to end.

The legal action seeks to have the conditional-use permit application remanded and the permit revoked.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval ruling of Oct. 13, 2016, is being challenged by NC WARN, a Durham-based nonprofit that addresses “the climate crisis and other hazards posed by electricity generation.”

NC WARN is one of 20 organizations that have filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a rehearing of the approval decision, said John Runkle, an NC WARN attorney.

Proponents of the pipeline, which include the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, say it will bring natural gas that will make it easier to attract industry, which wants the fuel because it burns clean and is cheaper than most energy sources. The pipeline’s owners also would pay property taxes on the infrastructure.

Opponents say the pipeline is not needed and is environmentally risky.

Staff report