RALEIGH — The effort to get approval for the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through North Carolina has hit a clog.
The North Carolina Division of Water Resources on Thursday informed those who want to build and operate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that a 401 Water Quality Certification will not be awarded until additional information is submitted as part of their application.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Inc. was informed of the division’s decision by letter.
Much of the additional information wanted by the state deals with issues involving stream crossings along the pipeline’s proposed 600-mile route. In its request for additional information the state said the “project involves numerous stream crossings that can affect downstream water quality both temporarily and during construction and permanently.”
The state is requesting from the pipeline’s builders a sediment erosion plan, a restoration plan for stream crossings, a “qualitative” analysis for Robeson, Cumberland and Johnston counties where metering and regulating stations will be constructed, and other informational items.
Atlantic Pipeline LLC, which includes Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Company Gas, applied for the state 401 certification on May 8. On June 27, the Division of Water Resources requested additional information, which was submitted by the company on July 12.
Aaron Ruby, a Dominion Energy spokesman, on Friday played down the action taken by the state, calling it “nothing out of the ordinary.”
“It’s a normal part of the process for agencies to request additional information based on public comments,” he said Friday in a statement. “That’s why agencies ask for public comment. We’ll provide the information promptly so DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) can complete its review.”
Opponents are calling the state’s decision a realization that there still is uncertainty about the effect the pipeline will have on humans and the environment along its route.
“I believe the delay is meaningful,” said Christine Ellis, of the South Carolina-based Winyah Rivers Foundation. “My question is: If the company has the information requested immediately available, why didn’t they put the information on the application when it was submitted?”
Ellis called the delay “good news for the community.”
“This (more information) is what we have been asking for along,” she said. “There is not sufficient documentation in the application to ensure that the pipeline will not negatively impact the environment.”
The executive director of the Center for Community Action in Lumberton praised the state’s decision. Mac Legerton has said on numerous occasions that the pipeline is not needed.
“We are very pleased with the decision to request a significant amount of information that relates to environmental concerns related to pipeline construction and operation,” Legerton said. “The letter from DEQ indicates there were 9,000 comments that led them to require this major amount of additional information.”
The proposed route runs from West Virginia, through Virginia and into North Carolina, where it ends in Pembroke.
The 401 Water Quality Certification is required as part of Section 401 of North Carolina’s Clean Water Act. It is one of the state permits needed before pipeline construction can begin. An application for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certification is pending.
As part of the application process, the state held two public hearings, one in Fayetteville and one in Rocky Mount. The hearings were held on July 18 and July 20.
Proponents of the pipeline, which include the Robeson County Board of Commissioners as well as the Economic Development Office, say it will bring natural gas that will make it easier to attract industry, which wants the fuel because it burns clean and is cheaper than most energy sources. The owners of the pipeline would also pay property taxes on the infrastructure.