Failure of feds, Duke and Dominion leaves communities at risk for health, explosion risks due to pipe coating degradation, NC WARN tells DEQ Secretary
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was cancelled last week, but 80,000 large steel pipes have been stored improperly for over four years, posing an immediate risk of toxic air and water exposures to multiple communities and increasing the risk of a catastrophic gas explosion if the pipes are used at another project. That’s according to a report by a career state regulator being filed today with NC Department of Environmental Quality secretary Michael Regan.
NC WARN is calling on Regan to investigate the years-long failure of federal agencies to require ACP owners Duke Energy and Dominion Energy to protect the pipes from sunlight, which fairly quickly breaks down a highly toxic, anti-corrosion pipe coating into a powder that can be blown or washed into the air or water.
The future of the pipes is uncertain, but acres of stacked pipes are being stored at six storage yards, including at Fuquay Varina and Plymouth, NC. Pipes also lie on the ground next to a trench that was dug in Northampton County before ACP construction was halted in 2018.
The report by William Limpert, a 28-year environmental regulator for the State of Maryland, was filed by NC WARN with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission on July 2. NC WARN told Regan there are reports of similar problems with the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate.
Other highlights of the report include:
- A pipe coating trade association recommends exposure to no more than six months of sunlight. The ACP pipes have been exposed for four years.
- A 2017 inspection found that most of the ACP pipes contained degraded coating.
- FERC has failed to resolve concerns very similar to Limpert’s that were raised by environmental and health regulators in Virginia and North Carolina.
- Gas pipeline incidents occur frequently across the US; corrosion is a leading cause.
- For most of the ACP route, the zone of incineration for a high-pressure pipeline explosion was 1,100 feet in all directions, and the evacuation zone was 1.4 miles wide.
- Federal regulators allow reduced safety standards in rural areas.
Projects such as the ACP and MVP tend to target communities of color and low wealth, putting them at disproportionately greater health and safety risks. We cannot allow any of these communities to host toxic waste sites filled with acres of ACP pipes – or for Duke and Dominion to quietly transfer the dangerous pipes to other communities.