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Fight still rages over gas pipeline

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Nash Stop the Pipeline and other groups have filed a federal complaint against an natural gas pipeline already under fire in a Virginia court.

The groups contend approval of the $6 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline — in the early stages of construction by Duke Energy and Dominion Power — cheated vulnerable residents out of federal civil rights protections for low-income communities and people of color, according to a statement released by Narkie Nartey with NC WARN, a environmental watchdog group based in Durham.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Civil Rights Compliance Office, alleges several state agencies cheated communities along the proposed pipeline route by skirting requirements designed to ensure that such projects don’t target areas deemed to lack political power due to their racial and economic makeup.

Simultaneously, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a key permit for the pipeline, ruling that federal regulators haven't provided specific limits for the allowable impact on threatened and endangered species.

Builders will continue to move forward with construction as scheduled, said Dominion spokeswoman Jen Kostyniuk. She said the court order doesn't affect the rest of the project, including the nine-county stretch in North Carolina.

The North Carolina complaint calls on the EPA to require three state agencies to overturn the permits granted for the pipeline, require a new environmental justice analysis that adheres to federal law and conduct a public hearing in Eastern North Carolina.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Tammie McGee said the complaint by NC Warn is rife with misinformation and reflects basic misinterpretation of complex and thoughtful federal and state processes.

“It appears to be a re-hash of criticism and arguments already raised to and rejected by FERC,” McGee said. “The pipeline will actually help to restore economic balance for Eastern North Carolina, providing opportunity and paving the way to prosperity for some of the most disadvantaged counties in the state.”

Valerie Williams, a black landowner in Halifax County, said the land is of the utmost importance to her family. Williams is a member of Concerned Stewards of Halifax County.

“The land is our family tree and it speaks of legacies, heritage and memories,” Williams said. “No one will take that away from us. No pipelines on our valuable historic farms — no Intruders on our land.”

The complaint cites a recent study by the Research Triangle Institute that demonstrates the failure of the federal analysis, which was adopted by the state agencies, along with the pipeline's impacts on communities of color.

“The counties crossed by proposed ACP route collectively have a significantly higher percentage minority population than the rest of the counties in the state,” according to the RTI.

McGee said the pipeline's route was determined by need. It's routed where Duke Energy needs the natural gas to produce electricity and where gas utilities need the resource to provide heating and other services to homes and businesses in the years to come.

“The economic impact of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be transformative for Eastern North Carolina,” McGee said. “This project represents the single largest capital investment in the economic future of the region in many decades.”

McGee said the pipeline underwent one of the most thorough reviews ever done for a project of its scope.

“This unprecedented scrutiny should give assurance to all communities that their voices have been heard,” McGee said.

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