Sunday’s announcement of the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was remarkable for so many reasons. Not least that the two companies, Dominion and Duke, are the most powerful corporate entities in their respective states (Virginia and North Carolina). For these two corporate giants to back down is a rare and beautiful thing to behold. This victory comes as an enormous relief to people all along the more than 600 miles of pipeline route through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Farmers, homeowners, small business entrepreneurs — the pipeline fighters who won this rich victory were everyday people whose lives were upended for the past six years just because Dominion and Duke came up with a nifty scheme to enrich their shareholders with guaranteed ratepayer money. Or so they’d hoped. There is little doubt that movements for environmental and climate justice in the U.S. and Canada are turning the tide on a reckless and arrogant industry
Atlantic Coast Pipeline
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which would have carried fracked natural gas through 600 miles of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, will never be completed. Pipeline owners Dominion and Duke Energy announced Sunday they were cancelling the fossil fuel project due to mounting delays and uncertainty. They said the many legal challenges to the project had driven up the projected costs by almost half, from $4.5 to $5 billion when it was first announced in 2014 to $8 billion according to the most recent estimate. Environmental and community groups, who have long opposed the project on climate, conservation and racial justice grounds, welcomed the news.
This week in a small remote corner of North Carolina, two mega fossil fuel corporations, Duke and Dominion, may have met their match. In the Robeson County Courthouse in Lumberton Lumbee and Tuscarora neighbors of a proposed metering and regulation(M&R) station (including a 350-foot radio tower) and a compressor station (which already exists) challenged their County Commissioners' permitting of these projects. Because these facilities are essential to the construction of Atlantic Coast Pipeline, they were also taking on the corporate owners of the ACP.
Two pipelines– the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)—earmarked for construction in Virginia have been the source of massive controversy. In a previous CounterPunch article I discussed the MVP, saving the equally controversial ACP for this article. The ACP is a 42-inch fracked-natural gas pipeline that would run about 600 miles/970 km from West Virginia through Virginia before terminating in eastern North Carolina.
According to a draft version of the document dated May 30, 2018, the tribes “would not petition any state or federal regulatory agency or court of law” or “submit additional comment letters, protests or appeals” regarding the ACP. The tribes also “would agree not to hinder or delay the development, construction or operation of the pipeline.” Half of the $1 million would be paid up front — minus legal fees for CHP — with the balance being paid shortly before the pipeline would begin operating commercially. The amount of the commission could not be confirmed in the draft settlement. Since the terms and even the existence of the agreement are confidential, the contents of the final document are not public.
Following requests from Appalachian Mountain Advocates (Appalmad) attorneys, the Norfolk, Huntington, and Pittsburgh districts of the Army Corps of Engineers have each suspended its authorization of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. As a result, ACP lacks authorization to do any instream or wetland construction anywhere along its route. Appalmad has argued this action was necessary in light of a recent federal court ruling that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s reliance on Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12 was improper. The NWP was issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. It allowed contractors to trench through the bottom of streams and rivers.
Citizen groups filed another lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Thursday, this time taking direct aim at the federal certificate that undergirds all other permits for the complex interstate gas project. Pipeline foes have long contended the project isn’t needed to meet demand in Virginia and North Carolina, and that it will cause unmitigated harm to the region’s forests, endangered animals, and waterways. They’ve filed numerous suits focused on the pipeline’s environmental impacts, winning temporary victories last week that have stalled construction.
The government's energy regulator is facing allegations of cherry-picking data to approve pipeline projects that would disproportionately harm communities of color. According to academics, attorneys, and non-governmental organizations, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission used unreliable statistical methods in its analysis of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, masking its high cost to African-American and Native-American communities. While the Commission concluded that the pipeline poses no environmental justice concerns, these minority groups say that their environment, health, and culture will be disproportionately imperiled if the development goes ahead as planned. FERC faced similar accusations over the Sabal Trail pipeline in 2016, indicating a pattern in how the federal government manages to force unwelcome energy infrastructure through vulnerable communities.
In this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we spoke with several people involved at the Three Sisters encampment in Virginia fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the tree-sit at the Little Teel Crossing in Virginia fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and someone that has been an on the ground supporter of the various encampments and tree-sits in both Virginia and West Virginia. Wanting to know more about how the movement has grown to feature now up to 7 people in the trees, including various home and landowners that are threatened with eminent domain, we discuss how various relationships were made and certain tactics popularized. In our discussions, we talk about everything from ongoing police repression, to how people go to the bathroom while up in a tree, but also political education, and also not putting radical politics, messaging, and ideas on the back burner.
As the Atlantic Coast Pipeline doubles down on slashing trees on hundreds of private properties in North Carolina, a federal judge has taken the unusual step of barring the energy consortium from clearing trees on two rural homesteads. U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle said the interstate pipeline developer must first pay the two landowners before its chainsaw crews can enter their properties. The ruling comes as the planned 600-mile natural gas project, which is already more than a year behind schedule, is running up against deadlines that could add months to the construction timeline. Led by Charlotte's Duke Energy and Richmond's Dominion Energy, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline plans to bring vast supplies of natural gas to North Carolina from fracking operations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are deploying an increasingly common weapon in advocacy campaigns: a documentary film. Their 19-minute production, “Robeson Rises,” features Lumbee Indians and an African American who live near the route of the planned 600-mile natural gas pipeline that is set to run through eight North Carolina counties. At times resolute and tearful, the local residents are shown organizing against the interstate energy project that they say threatens their ancestral land and their cultural identity. The film’s organizers say their project is unusual even by the standards of the political documentary, which takes sides by design. They agreed to cede artistic indepenence to empower the subjects of the film to make editorial decisions to tell their own story in their own way.
Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline filled North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s office Friday and refused to leave until he reverses course on the pipeline. About 25 people began their sit-in at about 8:30am and are still occupying the governor’s office as of mid-afternoon. They say they won’t voluntarily vacate the room until Cooper stops the pipeline by revoking a crucial permit. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would run 600 miles from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina, has met with strong resistance all along its proposed route. After several requests for more information from applicant Dominion Transmission, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality just granted the project a water quality certification. Duke Energy, a major influencer in North Carolina politics, has a minority stake in the pipeline.
By Elizabeth Ouzts for Southeast Energy News - On September 15, 1982, high-profile protests over the siting of a toxic waste dump in Afton, North Carolina – an overwhelmingly African American town an hour northeast of Raleigh – set in motion a wave of reforms to prevent polluters from targeting people of color and the poor. Thirty-five years later, North Carolina advocates say the $5-billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline deserves its own place in the environmental-justice history books – a distinction they believe could be its undoing. “It deserves its own claim to shame,” said Therese Vick with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. Backed primarily by Duke Energy and Dominion Resources, the project would transport 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Marcellus Shale region to Virginia and North Carolina, hugging the I-95 corridor before ending in Robeson County. In all but one county along the pipeline’s 180-mile route in North Carolina, African Americans, Native Americans and those living in poverty make up a greater percentage of the population than the statewide average. More than a quarter of the state’s Native Americans live along the project’s path. Despite flagging 71 percent of the census tracts along the North Carolina pipeline route for ‘environmental justice concerns,’ federal regulators have given the project the green light – a move scores of groups are contesting.
By Martha Quillin for The News and Observer - Builders of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline will need to give more information to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality before the agency can decide whether to approve the part of the disputed gas line that would run through the state, the agency said Thursday. The pipeline is a project of Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas, who had hoped to begin clearing land for construction in November, build in 2018 and have the pipeline in use in 2019. DEQ’s request, issued Thursday, could push that schedule back. While the pipeline would need additional state and federal approvals before construction could begin, the water quality permit is a major hurdle. Meanwhile, pipeline opponents are stepping up their campaign to try to stop the project, saying it’s a religious crusade for which they are willing to lay their bodies down. “At its core, it’s a moral and spiritual issue,” said Greg Yost, a ninth-grade math teacher from Madison County who is working full-time to try to stop the pipeline. Yost began fasting two weeks before DEQ’s Sept. 18 deadline to respond to the permit application, and this week has spent his days outside the department’s Jones Street office in downtown Raleigh. Where a political issue might hold interest for a short while, he said, “By saying this is a moral issue, we’re signaling that we’re in it for the long haul. We will fight to the end, and if that means we have to put ourselves physically in the way of the pipeline, we’re ready to do that.”