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State approves pipeline

RALEIGH – One of the final hurdles was cleared here yesterday (Friday) for the permitting process of the highly debated Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

On Friday, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a 401 water quality certification that is required for the ACP project to move forward in the state. Projects that will impact wetlands, buffers or waterways must obtain this certification.

The certification process in North Carolina took longer than expected as the project will cross in excess of 300 waterways along its path in the state. However, the staff with DEQ’s Division of Water Resources conducted an exhaustive review of the project plans, requiring the company to submit additional application information on five occasions as well as conducting public comment periods.

“DEQ left no stone unturned in our exhaustive eight month review of every aspect of the 401 application,” said DEQ Secretary Michael Regan in a press released issued Friday. “Our job doesn’t end with the granting of the permit but continues as we hold the company accountable to live up to its commitments. Our efforts have resulted in a carefully crafted permit that includes increased environmental protections, while giving us the tools we need to continue close oversight of this project as it moves forward.”

Among those increased protections is private well testing will be required before and after construction within 150 feet of the disturbed area or 500 feet from blasting areas. Testing after the impacts must be conducted by an independent qualified groundwater specialist.

The ACP, which originates in West Virginia, will pass through eight, eastern North Carolina counties. Northampton is one. There, the project calls for the construction of a compressor station and main office near Pleasant Hill. This will create about 22 new jobs. Northampton County is projected to receive about $1.6 million per year in tax revenue from the pipeline once it is in service.

The project must still obtain from DEQ an air quality permit for the Northampton compressor station, two general stormwater permits for impacts in Nash and Cumberland counties, an individual stormwater permit for a contractors’ work yard in Cumberland County and approval of the erosion and sediment control plan for the northern segment of the pipeline’s North Carolina route. The erosion and sediment control plan for the southern segment was approved in December.

“After more than three years of comprehensive study, representing the most thorough environmental review of any infrastructure project in state history, the agency concluded that the project will preserve North Carolina’s water quality under stringent state standards,” said Aaron Ruby, Media Relations Manager for Dominion Energy.

Dominion along with Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and Southern Gas Company are partnering to build and operate the 600-mile natural gas pipeline.

“This process resulted in more environmental protection and higher water quality standards than any other project of its kind,” Ruby added. “At every stage of the project we’ve gone above and beyond regulatory requirements and adopted some of the most protective measures ever used by the industry. Additionally, state and federal inspectors will closely monitor construction to ensure we meet all regulatory standards.”

Ruby stated that Friday’s approval by DEQ brings North Carolina one step closer to a growing economy, thousands of new jobs and lower energy costs for consumers.

“With new infrastructure, the region will be able to attract manufacturers and other new industries, and the good-paying jobs they bring. It will also accelerate the transition from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas and support new investments in renewables, resulting in cleaner air and lower emissions in communities across the state,” he said.

At the federal level, the project must also obtain a 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for stream and wetland impacts.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the lead regulatory agency for natural gas pipeline projects. That agency approved the ACP on Oct. 13, 2017 following a public review of the project’s environmental impact statement and a public comment period.

The project has already begun tree removal and land clearing in West Virginia and Virginia and will start clearing in North Carolina when it receives state approval for its sedimentation control plan.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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