On January 26, 2018, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality issued a 401 water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project to move forward in North Carolina. Their press release lists the requirements in the certification as well as certifications the ACP “must still obtain from DEQ an air quality permit for a compressor station in Northampton County, two general stormwater permits for impacts in Nash and Cumberland counties, an individual stormwater permit for a contractors’ work yard in Cumberland County and approval of the erosion and sediment control plan for the northern segment of the pipeline’s North Carolina route.”
Immediately following the NC DEQ announcement, NC Governor Roy Cooper announced a fund for clean energy and rural development. The Governor’s Web page says, “ACP and its partners Dominion Power and Duke Energy will put $57.8 million into the fund to be used for environmental mitigation initiatives such as reducing the carbon footprint and expansion of renewable energy sources. Funds can also be used to ensure that local communities benefit economically from the pipeline by having access to natural gas from the pipeline. ACP did not guarantee affordable access to natural gas for communities through which the pipeline will run. Details on how the fund will operate are underway.” (Read the Memorandum of Agreement for the new fund.)
NC Policy Watch reported on January 25, 2018, that Duke Energy approached the Governor’s Office about the status of the ACP permitting process. On January 26 Policy Watch reported, “Over the past week, there were rumors that Duke Energy was cutting a deal with the Cooper administration for a permit approval. Under the terms, Duke would establish a environmental mitigation fund, which included money for renewable energy. That rumor proved to be true, as within minutes of DEQ publicizing its approval of the ACP permit, Cooper’s office announced that Dominion Power and Duke Energy will put $57.8 million into the fund to be used for environmental mitigation initiatives. These include efforts to ‘reduce the carbon footprint and expansion of renewable energy sources.’”
Condemnation from community groups and environmental organizations was swift, especially given that the announcement of the Dominion/Duke donation of $57.8 million came suspiciously soon after the DEQ approvals.
Speaking of the $57.8 million, the Washington Post reported, “The two utilities and the pipeline company agreed that the money will go first toward ‘mitigation for the unavoidable effects’ of the pipeline on ‘interior forest habitats, open-space lands, water bodies, and natural resources’ in communities along the pipeline’s route. The deal doesn’t bar North Carolina from recovering damages if the pipeline leaks or causes fuel spills.” In other words, Duke/Dominion agree the ACP will do lots of damage, but they will make huge profits and will graciously donate a bit of money towards fixing the damage.
In a press release immediately after the NCDEQ announcement and that of NC Governor Cooper, Appalachian Voices slammed the approval, saying “The massive pipeline would run through eight rural eastern North Carolina counties, and cross streams, rivers and wetlands 326 times, posing unacceptable long-term risks to drinking water sources, fisheries and watersheds.”
Amy Adams, North Carolina Program Manager for Appalachian Voices, said, “The governor acted in the best interest of North Carolina’s coastal families and businesses when he opposed offshore drilling, but his action today abandons the people who live and work in one of the most disenfranchised regions of our state and whose private property would be sacrificed for this unnecessary pipeline. Gov. Cooper cannot dress up this pipeline approval by throwing a few million dollars for environmental mitigation, which in itself acknowledges there will indeed be severe impacts to communities and our natural resources. And while his support for renewable energy and cutting climate pollution is commendable, his action today allowing this pipeline utterly undermines those very goals.”
She also noted, “It will be impossible for the agency to do all of the monitoring and enforcement to prevent widespread damage, and they know it. The pressure must have been very intense to make senior DEQ staff and the Governor cave in and accept a deal ahead of permit deadlines.”