State seeks more details on pipeline project

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The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has made a fourth request for additional information from the developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The ACP currently is requesting an Individual Water Quality Certification / Buffer Authorization from the department’s Energy, Mineral and Land Resources division for some 180-miles of the 600-mile natural gas pipeline that would cross eight counties, including Wilson.

The Nov. 28 letter from Karen Higgins, supervisor of the 401 and Buffer Permitting Branch, said additional information is necessary to continue to process the Atlantic Coast Pipeline application.

Citing a Nov. 7 conference call between state and ACP project representatives, the division “explained that the ACP’s Indirect and Cumulative Effects Screening lacked an analysis of the project’s potential to stimulate economic development and its potential impact on water quality.”

The state asked the developer to produce maps of available water and sewer infrastructure overlaid along the pipeline route with water resources, and existing developed areas and roadway infrastructure that would be helpful in identifying areas with the potential to experience project-induced growth.

“Once these areas are identified, a more detailed discussion of the potential for each specific area to experience project-induced growth must be provided,” the letter states.

According to the letter, the ACP “provided the mapping suggested by staff, there was no analysis of the information provided in the maps, specific areas were not identified, a detailed analysis of each area’s potential for project-induced growth was not completed, nor was there a detailed discussion of the regulatory framework that may be in place or needed to protect water quality.”

The state asked that these items be included in the response from the developer.

The letter said the response “should include comparing forecasts of future conditions with and without the proposed project along with an explanation of the underlying system of logic used in the analysis.”

“The analysis should include a specific discussion of industries that need additional natural gas capacity to operate in North Carolina,” the letter states. “There should be a clear connection in the discussion to support the conclusion statements.”

The state asked for “more robust analysis” of the ACP’s Indirect and Cumulative Effects Screening with more details regarding the terminus of the project.

Referring to the ACP statement that “there is no commitment to potential customers or reasonably foreseeable plans to extend the ACP beyond the current terminus,” the state asks the ACP to include “an explanation of the factor or factor(s) that led to proposed terminus of the project.”

Dominion Energy and Duke Energy are primary backers of the pipeline, a $5 billion project that would extend from West Virginia, through Virginia to North Carolina.

The state’s requests appear to hammer toward concerns expressed by many opponents of the project. Among them, that the project is not needed and that it would negatively affect water quality in eastern North Carolina.

Additionally, statements made by the developer in recent months have suggested that the pipeline would not end in Robeson County, as has been previously stated in documents affiliated with the project, but that it would continue into South Carolina.

The state has given the developer 30 days to provide a response.

“We’re working on the responses now and will send those to the agency in short order,” said Dominion Energy spokesman Aaron Ruby. “It shouldn’t have any significant impact on the schedule.”