Pipeline critics push against plan


Staff Writer

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A local group fighting installment of an interstate natural gas pipeline through Nash County is urging people to voice their opposition at a public hearing next week while utility representatives say the project is on track despite questions from state regulators.

The U.S. Division of Air Quality is holding a public hearing Wednesday in Garysburg, the largest town in nearby Northampton County, where builders are planning a compressor station near Pleasant Hill for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Compressor stations can cause dangerous emissions of volatile organic compounds, said Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Water for North Carolina.

The pipeline disproportionately targets minority and low-income rural communities, according to advocates at a recent people's tribunal. Nash Stop the Pipeline and other environmental and social justice groups have been fighting a protracted battle against the pipeline for years.

To the chagrin of a handful of local opponents, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity to the pipeline project in mid-October.

The project is now undergoing complex regulatory proceedings at the state level.

Pipeline builders have received two information requests in the form of disapproval letters from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality related to the project’s erosion and sedimentation control permit, said Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for Dominion Energy, which is building the pipeline along with Duke Progress Energy and other utility companies.

“The agency has stated very clearly that it has not denied our permit,” Ruby said. “A 'Letter of Disapproval' is simply the mechanism the agency uses to request information or make procedural notifications. These requests are typical for projects of this size and complexity.”

Ruby said the utility companies are confident the additional information requested by the state will be provided in short order. The state will make a decision on the pipeline's water quality certification first then on the erosion and sedimentation control.

“We fully support the process, and we’ll continue cooperating with the agency as we’ve done from the beginning,” Ruby said. “The project remains on track for final approval by the end of this year.”

The pipeline will help public utilities in North Carolina meet a growing need for natural gas in the state, said Duke spokeswoman Tammie McGee.