The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has finally approved what activists have been protesting since 2013, the Atlantic Coast pipeline. The pipeline runs 600 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina and is almost as long as the line of protestors and activists opposing it. Pipeline developers can now begin the process of land acquisition citing the use of eminent domain if a landowner refuses a buyout.
Dominion Energy is spearheading this $5 billion project and activists say the company has severely underestimated the potential blast zone for the 42 inch mainline and 36 inch offshoot lines. Activists locally are also concerned about leaking lines and even federal regulators acknowledged in their environmental impact statement that while the pipeline poses some risk to nearby bodies of water, vegetation and an endangered bat, “…impacts, would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.” Compressor station construction in areas with disproportionate minority communities is also a concern to activists because they say construction dust and station emissions spew sulfur dioxide and are an asthma risk.
Activists know the proposed pipeline plan well- in March of 2017 they walked the route from the North Carolina – Virginia state lines to Gettysburg, North Carolina for two weeks to help draw attention to their concerns. But the battle against the pipeline isn’t over and protestors know that – activists are pressuring state environmental officials to deny water crossing permits and compressor station permits. The state has already denied a permit for erosion and sediment control as well as asking for more information regarding a water quality certification permit. Expect pressure to be placed now on getting landowners to fight acquisition and pressure to be exerted on the permitting agencies. If that fails, expect a move much like the Sierra Club’s litigation against the Mountain Valley pipeline last June. The Sierra Club succeeded and their state rescinded the project’s water quality certification last month.