Joe and Betsy Hester: No need for Atlantic Coast Pipeline



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Here’s a lingering question. Why do we need the ACP?

Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. DEQ approved a 401 permit in January allowing Dominion to move forward with the ACP. It will span three states, intersect the Blue Ridge Mountains, cross thousands of acres of wetlands, woodlands, streams, rivers, reservoirs, farms and homes. In February, FERC also “granted a certificate of public necessity” for a South Carolina pipeline, and Dominion asked to “fast-track the project” to meet “increased demand for the next few decades” expressing concern that if the approval process were not “quickened,” it could “jeopardize the (entire) project.”

Do we see a pattern? The ACP is urgently needed. Now so is South Carolina. Why a “certificate of public necessity?” Is this really for the public? What are they really doing with this gas? And what about our water? Here are the facts.

According to “The American Oil & Gas Reporter,” there is a large surplus of natural gas. In fact, there’s so much coming from the northeast that there is a “supply glut,” and they cannot move it quickly enough out of the region. Their answer? Build pipelines across the Southeast to transport it from the “prolific (gas) producing regions.” The article goes on to say that “There is no doubt this is driven by … increased (demand for) exports, including … to Mexico and overseas.” The Dominion representatives denied this from the very first meeting. The evidence now suggests it most certainly is.

Across the Southeast, land for this project has been expropriated through eminent domain claiming it is for “public good.” So we ask, “Just how much does this pipeline really benefit the citizens of North Carolina, and particularly Eastern North Carolina?” The only way we can benefit from this pipeline is to tap onto it for industry? Also at the first meeting, we asked, “Will our community get a tap?” Dominion’s response was, “We’re talking. There are no planned taps.” Again and again we asked about the taps? Their response went from “We’re talking” to a flat refusal to answer. However, by 2015 “92 percent of the pipeline’s gas capacity” was already committed to 20-year contracts. To tap the “remaining 8 percent” bidders had to “ pay the estimated $5 to $8 million to build the tap and have a committed industry in place.” Or we needed the ability to supply gas into Piedmont’s distribution system that was currently available in North Carolina.

However, there is neither a shortage of gas, nor a predicted shortage for decades. Natural gas is not the limiting factor for the development of industry downeast. Ironically, our community leaders “touted the pipeline’s economic impact” as both an “alternative source of natural gas” and “a good thing for economic development” in our area; however, Chmura Economics and Analytics, contracted by Dominion, makes “economic forecasts for their clients” and their website states their data is “part science and part art.” (Does that mean it’s their best guess?)

In spite of the claims, there is no evidence of long-term economic gain for any area that has a pipeline. So far the promised jobs have been out-of-state surveyors. The promised tax revenues will potentially be offset by loss of property tax in areas where the pipeline is laid. A study by Key-Logics estimates that the “loss in property value [will be] staggering” and is already happening in counties in West Virginia. And no one from Dominion mentions the dangers from the “high rate of construction,” “poor inspections of pipelines under construction,” “problems at mills where the steel is made into pipe” or failure to “follow procedures” and “inadequate training” (U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration).

Are we are to trust them? Key-Logic says FERC’s policy states “corporations seeking certification for pipeline projects (must) provide (FERC) with information that supports the approval of the corporation’s application.” Will this guarantee “full, rigorous or economically adequate examination of proposals?” Who is regulating this industry? Who is regulating FERC? The industry is.

Finally, this pipeline will cross or undermine major rivers, many smaller tributaries and feeder streams, and miles of wetlands in North Carolina. These rivers provide drinking water to our communities, habitats for our wildlife, and recreation for our citizens. Dominion assures us it can be done safely without endangering water, wildlife, or homes along its route? Then why did we need a $58.7 million mitigation fund? That implies that everyone involved knows there is a clear, and even probably imminent danger to our environment. The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled against a company in New York, saying “(they) failed to provide sufficient information to determine whether the project would comply with the state’s water quality standards.” This ruling also means governors have the power to deny or revoke permits. Though Cooper approved the ACP in exchange for a “fund,” he has the authority to stop the ACP.

This pipeline is nothing more than a conduit to transport natural gas to other markets. It has little if anything to do with Eastern North Carolina and everything to do with profit for the industry. The constitutional purpose of eminent domain is so government can take land from private individuals for the public good, not for corporate profit. The industry cannot “use all that gas.” In fact, it “far exceeds the infrastructure to move the supplies to market.”

So we can now answer that question. We do not need the ACP.

Joe and Betsy Hester

Nash County landowners, environmentalists, attorney at law, educator