By Laura Leslie
Environmental activists called on Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration Tuesday to reconsider a key permit issued for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition and Friends of the Earth filed a petition with the state Department of Environmental Quality to revoke the permit the agency issued last year to the pipeline’s developers under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The groups say the facts that were presented in the application for the permit were incorrect and are no longer accurate.
The 600-mile pipeline is expected to carry natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, crossing eight eastern North Carolina counties from Halifax County to its terminus in Robeson County.
Construction on the $7 billion project has been stalled since courts last winter revoked a federal permit allowing the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail and two national forests. Last month, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out permits issued by the by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saying that federal regulators appeared to have lost sight of their mandate to protect the environment.
Activists for low-income and Native American communities in North Carolina have been protesting the pipeline since state regulators approved it in January 2018.
They claim the pipeline will put dangerous, dirty natural gas infrastructure in the middle of one of the largest Native American communities east of the Mississippi River and that the initial application by Duke Energy and its partners in the pipeline contained incorrect and incomplete information about its impacts on the environment and communities along its path, especially in Robeson County.
“We don’t’ always get a chance to have do-overs, and this is a major do-over,” Donna Chavis, a Lumbee activist from Pembroke and a member of Friends of the Earth, said during a news conference to announce the petition. “It’s a do-over that affects not just an individual … it’s a do-over that affects all North Carolinians – I would even say all people in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, specifically and the climate in general.”
If the DEQ decides not to act on the petition, advocates said they could decide to challenge it in court.