RALEIGH – Cleared for cutting.
On Thursday, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued the remaining NC Erosion and Sediment (E&S) Control Plan for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the final approval needed to begin pre-construction activities in northern counties along the route.
With that approval, the project can begin limited tree felling and vegetation clearing in Northampton County as early as yesterday (Friday), according to Tammie McGee, Corporate Media Relations with Duke Energy, one of the partners of the pipeline project.
McGee added that over the next two months, tree felling will continue in spreads slated for 2018 construction, which include the counties of Northampton, Halifax, Cumberland, Robeson, and northern portions of Nash.
Upland locations exclude wetlands, waterbodies and other areas that require additional federal approval.
“This pre-construction work will be done on foot, using hand-held equipment,” McGee said. “We will only be working where we’ve reached easement agreements with landowners, who will receive advance notice before we begin work on their properties.”
Tree felling, under the FERC-authorized limited notice to proceed, will continue through the end of March.
“Per FERC requirements, all trees will remain along the right of way until we receive the remaining federal approval to clear trees and begin full construction work. Once we receive those approvals, we’ll take the final step of requesting from FERC a Notice to Proceed with mechanized construction, which we expect by early spring,” McGee noted.
“(The Feb. 1) approval brings North Carolina one step closer to a growing economy, thousands of new jobs and lower energy costs for consumers,” McGee added. “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.”
The pipeline, 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. When asked about the status of that permit, McGee replied, “it remains under evaluation by the NC DEQ. Work on that structure is not scheduled to begin for another couple of months.”
Meanwhile the project is gaining steam on other fronts. Last week, NC DEQ issued a 401 water quality certification that is required for the pipeline to move forward in the state. Projects that will impact wetlands, buffers or waterways must obtain this certification.
Also, the DEQ issued the E&S plan in December for the southern route, which includes Sampson, Cumberland and Robeson counties.
Duke Energy is partnering with Dominion Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and Southern Gas Company to build and operate the 600-mile natural gas pipeline. The pipeline originates in West Virginia and ends near Lumberton, NC.