By Lisa Sorg
After years of effort, opponents of the cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline celebrate, reflect and look to the future
Belinda Joyner had returned from Sunday church and was settling in for the afternoon when she heard the news.
“Is this real?” Joyner asked her friend, who sent an email with the official announcement.
“Yes,” her friend replied.
Even 18 hours later, Joyner could hardly believe the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was dead. “I’m still absorbing it right now, whew,” she said, her voice cracking. “It’s like David and Goliath, and the pipeline is like Goliath, something huge.”
On Independence Day weekend, when most people weren’t tuned in to the news, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy jointly announced that they were cancelling the ACP. Since 2014, the utilities had been pursuing the pipeline, which would have started at a fracked gas operation in West Virginia, routed through Virginia and traversed 160 miles in eight counties in eastern North Carolina. Here, in its path were communities of color, tribal lands and low-income neighborhoods.
Questions linger about how a project of this magnitude — $8 billion and 600 miles long — will be undone. But pipeline opponents view the utilities’ decision as an acknowledgment that sometimes regular, working-class people can prevail.
“People have to realize no matter how big the fight is you can still win,” said Joyner, Northeastern organizer for Clean Water for North Carolina.
Joyner and hundreds of environmental advocates, many of whom are from communities of color with little political capital, have fought the ACP for more than four years. They have argued that eastern North Carolina wants clean energy and related jobs, not fossil fuels, which require infrastructure that harms the environment and produce emissions that exacerbate climate change.