New Atlantic Coast Pipeline documents raise more environmental concerns; comment by April 6

From NC Policy Watch contributor, Lisa Sorg:

New documents show that more than 1,700 acres of North Carolina forest; dozens of rare, threatened or endangered species; and seven vital waterways would be affected, and even harmed by construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The details are contained in Dominion Energy’s supplemental filings related to the ACP’s potential effects on wildlife and aquatic habitats in eastern North Carolina. And in many cases, the findings reinforce environmental advocates’ concerns about the ACP.

If approved by federal regulators, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would carry natural gas 600 miles, starting in West Virginia, traveling through Virginia and routing 160 miles through eight counties in eastern North Carolina. In Robeson County, the ACP would then connect with a Piedmont line, and continue through Scotland and Richmond counties to the South Carolina border. The pipeline is co-owned primarily by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy.

The public comment period on the 1,000-plus page Draft Environmental Impact Statement has been open since Dec. 30. It ends April 6. However, several key supplements, some totaling hundreds of pages, have trickled in since then, some as late as March 31.

Those documents contain concerns from federal wildlife officials that rare, threatened and endangered species, such as Atlantic sturgeon, several species of mussels and the Neuse River Waterdog, could be inadvertently killed as a result of the pipeline’s construction. In most cases, construction crews would horizontally drill beneath a waterbody to core out space for the 36-inch diameter pipeline, roughly the size of a hula hoop. While less disruptive than actually carving into the stream bed — a method planned for part of the Neuse River — horizontal drilling carries risks of “inadvertent return.”

Illustration by Nelle Dunlap

In other words, mud and other drilling materials, although non-toxic, could back up into the drill and spill into the waterway or its buffers. That material could then block or fill the waterway, not only cutting off streamflow, but also essentially suffocating aquatic life.

View the full article at NC Policy Watch.

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