Fracked Gas Pipeline Would Cost NC $20 Billion, Impair State Economy, Worsen Climate Impacts: Coalition Urges Governor to Stop the Bleeding
Analysis also shows the top selling point for Atlantic Coast Pipeline – gas for new industry – is a “cruel hoax” played on Cooper’s constituents
If ever completed, a stalled and controversial fracked gas pipeline would cost North Carolinians over $20 billion due to ongoing cost overruns, make energy bills soar and amplify statewide climate impacts, the Energy Justice NC Coalition* told Governor Roy Cooper today. In addition, they say Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, the owners of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, have played a cruel hoax on economically depressed counties along the proposed route by promising natural gas for new industry while planning to use nearly all of it in Duke’s own power plants.
The promise of new industry and jobs has been the lead selling point for the ACP by local and state politicians – including Cooper – and economic developers since the project began. However, an analysis of federal documents by coalition member NC WARN shows that Duke and Dominion never planned to make gas available for industry along the eight-county route, and no such delivery points are planned.
In a letter sent today, the coalition detailed how North Carolina would be saddled with two-thirds of the ACP costs because they would be passed on through the fuel pricing system. They urged Cooper to:
- Openly declare his opposition to families and businesses being forced to pay for past and future ACP cost overruns or for stranded costs if the ACP is cancelled.
- Publicly acknowledge that the ACP won’t bring new industry and jobs to the eight NC counties through which it would run, and call on Duke and Dominion leaders and public officials to stop claiming that it would.
- Use his stature and relationship with Duke CEO Lynn Good and Dominion CEO Tom Farrell to end the ACP project before more damage is done. Both CEOs met privately with Cooper just days before his agencies approved the contentious ACP in 2017.
Duke and Dominion, which together own 95 percent of the ACP, now forecast that the construction price tag has ballooned 65 percent from original estimates, to $8.4 billion. The project is three years behind schedule and stalled by federal legal challenges. The letter to Cooper explains that, when construction, financing, operating costs and the 15 percent rate of return are included, North Carolinians would pay over $20 billion for the ACP over the first 20 years – not even including the cost of the gas itself.
NC WARN estimates that several billion dollars have already been spent although construction is less than 5 percent complete.
“Those are stunning revelations,” Sallie McLean, former Mayor of Maxton, NC, said today, referring to both the $20 billion price tag and the economic development hoax. She has been active in opposing the ACP, plus a large gas storage facility Duke is trying build in her Robeson County community, where the ACP supposedly would end. “They always target rural counties with their dangerous projects and phony promises. For us, it’s tackling one fire right after another, on top of all the storm damage we’re still struggling with.” Mayor McLean now works to rebuild communities throughout Robeson County from the ravages of Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, even as a new hurricane season began this month.
As the coalition told the governor, this issue has extraordinary ramifications. “If built, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would help lock in Duke Energy’s huge, climate-wrecking expansion of fracked gas. Your approval of the ACP remains a stark contradiction to your public statements of concern about the climate crisis. Its completion would largely offset any gains achieved under your Executive Order 80 when one takes into account that natural gas is even worse for the climate than coal due to the leakage and venting of unburned gas, which is mostly methane.”
Thomas Hadwin, a former electric and gas industry executive, provided information and clarification for NC WARN’s analysis. Today he said, “Even if gas was available to bring industry to eastern North Carolina, using the ACP to transport it would be much more expensive than connecting to existing pipelines that serve North Carolina. If the cost of reserving capacity on the ACP is passed through to North Carolina ratepayers, it would add $13.5 – $20 billion to energy costs in the state over the next 20 years, regardless of how much gas is used. The ACP would stifle economic development and job growth in the state, not enhance it.”
Hadwin added that, from the outset, the ACP was intended as a wholesale pipeline primarily to run power plants, and that the broken promise of gas for new industry would be compounded by higher electricity prices resulting from using high-dollar ACP gas in Duke Energy’s power plants. Critics across Virginia and North Carolina have long argued that the pipeline isn’t needed for a variety of reasons.
The new Energy Justice NC coalition has emphasized that eastern NC – and the entire state – are increasingly being harmed by superstorms, disastrous flooding and other climate impacts made worse by Duke Energy’s continuing reliance on coal and expanding use of fracked gas.
They urged Cooper to use this opportunity to rectify the mistake of approving the ACP by brokering a deal with the two CEOs to end this project before more damage is done. With the project in such trouble, “…now is the time to stop the bleeding and prevent us all from watching the cost to North Carolina climb past the 10 and 20 billion dollar marks, thus wrecking the state economy.”
“We hope you will agree that North Carolina residents must stop being forced to pay for the poor choices of Duke Energy executives, who are choosing to add to their profits by burdening North Carolinians with higher costs,” the coalition told Cooper in the letter.