By T.C. Hunter
Robeson County suffered a big economic blow with the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, the county’s Economic Development Office director said Monday.
“This is a tremendous economic development and financial loss for Robeson County,” Channing Jones said.
The developers of the proposed 600-mile pipeline, which would have carried fracked natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina and end near Pembroke, announced Sunday they were putting a stop to the project. They cited ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty.
What is certain is that Eastern North Carolina and Robeson County lost needed jobs and revenue, Jones said. the project was expected to generate about $680 million in revenue for Eastern North Carolina during a construction phase of between 18 and 24 months. About 4,000 construction jobs were expected to be created, more than 460 in Robeson County alone. More than 900 long-term jobs were projected in Robeson County as a result of manufacturing and business development sparked by having a reliable and ready supply of natural gas.
Robeson County leaders were projecting about $900,000 a year in property tax revenue from the completed pipeline, Jones said. And although there were no firm numbers, fire departments that would have served the areas along the pipeline’s route through Robeson County stood to receive more money so the departments could get the equipment and training needed to respond to any problems that may have developed along the pipeline.
Infrastructure projects such as the ACP have the potential to drive economic development, Jones said. In the case of the pipeline it would have meant a growth in industries and businesses that rely on natural gas. And with this growth would have come jobs.
“After two devastating hurricanes and, most recently, a pandemic, the short-term construction jobs and the long-term permanent manufacturing jobs were greatly needed,” Jones said.
Pipeline opponents were to quick to respond to the cancellation. Among them was the Rev. Mac Legerton, interim director of NC Climate Solutions Coalition and co-director of Robeson County Cooperative for Sustainable Development.
Legerton speculated in a statement that pipeline partners Duke Energy and Dominion Energy canceled the project because they didn’t want to risk a denial of their request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a two-year extension for the ACP.
“Environmental organizations are not to blame for the failure of the ACP project,” Legerton said. “The ACP was an unnecessary and irresponsible, economic and environmental boondoggle from the very beginning.”