This is the first article in a series which looks into the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which has stunning similarities to the Dakota Access and Standing Rock story.
“I am encouraged by the example by people coming together and the spiritual basis of those from DAPL. The people at Standing Rock think of themselves as protectors and not protestors. That’s how people throughout North Carolina feel, we want to protect our land, air, and [keep our] water safe,” stated Greg Yost.
Yost is a high school math teacher who went on leave to fight against the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).
Along with the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), these two shale gas pipelines would stretch approximately 850 miles. The ACP alone would stretch approximately 500 miles, beginning in West Virginia and running through Virginia and North Carolina. Investors began heavily pushing for the pipeline build-out in what is known as the Marcellus and Utica shale region in 2014, with survey and route planning beginning in May of that year. The pre-filing request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission took place later in October of 2014.
The ACP was proposed by Dominion Pipeline, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and AGL Resources and the MVP was proposed by EQT Midstream Partner, NextEra US Gas Assets, WGL Midstream, and Vega Midstream MVP.
Initial Problems With The Project
A recent report from Synapse Energy Economics shows there isn’t an imminent need for further pipelines in the Virginia and Carolina region stating:
For Virginia and the Carolinas, the anticipated natural gas supply capacity on existing and upgraded infrastructure is sufficient to meet maximum natural gas demand from 2017 through 2030: Additional interstate natural gas pipelines, like the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley projects, are not needed to keep the lights on, homes and businesses heated, and existing and new industrial facilities in production. This assessment of sufficient supply capacity includes only reported storage capacity, ignoring the existence of additional unreported storage capacity demonstrated by recent years’ peak hour demand.
The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) also raises a number of concerns relating to this project:
This report notes also that much of the $9 billion costs of the projects-aside from the costs embedded in the price of any natural gas that is exported-would ultimately be either added to the price consumers pay for natural gas or absorbed as a loss to project investors.
And it points out that regulators have not considered whether these pipelines are the best use of ratepayer dollars. None of the economic interests within the natural gas industry have any incentive to seriously consider whether alternatives to natural gas – energy efficiency, renewable energy or other forms of power generation – may be cheaper.
The IEFFA suggests the following after reviewing their report on the pipelines:
- That the applications for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines be suspended until a regional planning process can be developed for pipeline infrastructure;
- That FERC lower the returns on equity granted to pipeline developers; and
- That an investigation be conducted into the relatively high failure rate of new pipelines
Greg Yost, who volunteers for Alliance To Protect Our People And The Places We Live (APPPL) is strongly against gas pipelines due to the dangers of leaked methane emissions, which occur throughout the process of fracking and transporting shale gas. However, as the IEFFA report documents, consumers are also in danger of paying a large financial price for the pipeline project:
FERC has provided little justification to support recourse rates that include a 14% return on equity for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) noted that FERC has never required pipeline companies to provide much evidence to support such requests.
Recent pipelines have earned over 12% return, with several earning approximately 24% return. The FERC allowing such high returns creates a situation where investors flock to build pipelines in areas where there is no justification for such a project. Such overbuilding will create a scenario where ratepayers will see increases in their utilities as companies attempt to recoup lost capital.
How This Project Could Harm Communities
The ACP is currently scheduled to route through Robeson, North Carolina, which is home to the Native Lumbee Tribe. The tribe is currently pushing for federal legislation granting full recognition to the North Carolina Lumbee Tribe. The tribe has a rich history, with over 55,000 members living in North Carolina, making the tribe the largest in the nation east of the Mississippi River and the ninth largest in the United States. The tribe could face the same challenges that caught international attention at Standing Rock, North Dakota.
Olivia Neeley, a journalist for the Wilson (North Carolina) Times, recently spoke to several members of her community after members began speaking out against the construction of the ACP. Her reporting shows individuals being upset that none of the natural gas from the ACP will stay in Wilson and that some recognize that there aren’t any long-term benefits to the project, as reports have shown.
Members of the Wilson community also believe there could be major environmental, safety, and water quality risks. Celena Bissette stated the following to Wilson County Commissioners, “The installation of the pipeline poses an unnecessary risk to public safety and a negative impact on the environment. Many residents along the proposed pipeline route depend on well water, which comes from groundwater. And a breach of the pipeline could contaminate groundwater supply for many of our residents.”
Local Resistant To The Pipelines
The APPPL organized The Walk To Protect Our People And The Places We Live, which took place in the middle of March of this year. The APPPL is planning to resist the construction of the pipeline throughout the entire process until it is defeated.
Along with the environmental concerns, Greg is also worried about the economic future of North Carolina if the ACP is constructed. “They are betting everything on a fossil fuel energy for North Carolina’s future. [If built,] we will miss out on a green jobs revolution in North Carolina.”