LUMBERTON — The Lumbee Tribe wants its concerns regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to be heard.
That’s why the tribe, along with 18 other organizations, on Friday joined an appeal filed Jan. 19 in federal court by the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Jan Lowery, a Tribal Council member and chairman of its Health Committee.
“It’s not for or against the pipeline,” Lowery said. “It’s about, ‘Hey, come sit down and talk to us.’”
The legal action grew out of a desire to have someone representing the builders of the pipeline sit down with Tribal Council members..
The Tribal Council members were not aware of all the “pieces of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” Lowery said. So, Dominion Energy was asked to send a representative to speak with them.
Dominion Energy is one of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC partners that want to build the $5 billion, 600-mile natural gas pipeline that would start in West Virginia and end near Pembroke.
During the meeting that took place in the fall the representative was told about concerns the council members, and tribal members have with the pipeline, Lowery said. Among the concerns were what would happen if construction crews came upon an American Indian’s grave, how would the land be returned to its natural beauty after construction ended and the ACP’s environmental footprint. The Dominion representative also was asked to have ACP representatives come and consult with the tribe.
“We also requested FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and the state to do the same thing,” Lowery said.
In the meantime, the tribe sent to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a letter detailing the tribe’s concerns and requesting a consultation, she said. The commissioner has not replied.
“Dominion Energy has not sat down with the tribe in a full consultation capacity,” Lowery said.
The Southern Environmental Law Center was representing a dozen nonprofits when it filed its Jan. 29 appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.
“It’s more voices and more legal resources,” Jim Warren, executive director of NC WARN, said of Friday’s legal action.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is challenging the legitimacy of federal rulings that allow the ACP approval process to continue, while NC WARN’s actions are more focused on the pipeline’s effect on the environment, Warren said.
The Lumbee Tribe is among a collection of environmental groups that includes NC WARN and one other American Indian tribe to join the SELC appeal.
In a resolution filed Friday with the court, the Lumbee Tribe called upon “its membership, public officials and other Indian tribal nations to express their opposition to the permitting and certification of the ACP until the conduct of full and meaningful consultation with the Lumbee Tribe, and other impacted Indian tribal nations as requested, by all federal, state, and local entities,” according to information from Warren.
The other tribe is the Haliwa-Saponi.
More than 1,898 of the tribe’s 4,300 members live in Halifax County, according to the tribe’s website. Halifax County is along the pipeline’s proposed route through North Carolina. The other counties along the route are Robeson, Northampton, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson and Cumberland.
“We’re honored to be joined by both the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe,” Warren said. “FERC failed to identify major impacts on multiple Native American populations living along the proposed route, and FERC’s proposal to consult them later is insulting, a mere afterthought to the pipeline’s approval.”
The commission issued a ruling on Oct. 13 that cleared the way for limited tree-felling and other pre-construction work. The FERC approval also gave pipeline developers the authority to use eminent domain to acquire land if they can’t reach an agreement with landowners. The prospect of eminent domain is opposed by many ACP foes.
“Injustice toward African American, Native American and low-income communities is rife in the FERC approval,” Warren said.