The Rocky Mount Telegram
by Lindell John Kay
Planned pipeline proponents are pushing back against problems prophesied by protesters.
"The urgency for new natural gas infrastructure as embodied in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline continues to grow," said Duke Energy spokeswoman Tammie McGee.
The pipeline underpins Duke Energy’s ability to rapidly transition from coal-dependent power generation to cleaner energy, both natural gas and solar, McGee said.
"With only one supply line bringing natural gas to the state today, declining natural gas access has been a key shortfall in eastern North Carolina’s ability to attract industry and compete economically with the rest of the state," McGee said.
It's not just energy industry flacks who are speaking out in favor of the 600-mile interstate pipeline.
The mayors of six municipalities across eastern North Carolina released an open letter last week urging federal regulators to allow construction of the pipeline to resume as soon as possible.
Construction of the project was temporarily halted in December to allow additional court review of two federal permits. In the open letter — signed by mayors in Garysburg, Smithfield, Roanoke Rapids, Four Oaks, Pembroke and Selma — they explain the vital importance of the pipeline to the economic and environmental future of their communities.
"Most of the critics of this pipeline do not live in eastern North Carolina and do not share a stake in our future," the letter states. "They are the political elites in Raleigh and the environmentalist elites from the Piedmont. Their communities are not desperate for new investment, and their young people are not fleeing in search of jobs and a better life elsewhere. They have all the infrastructure and economic opportunity they could ever need. Instead of congratulating our region on a new chance at prosperity, they seem determined to deprive us of this opportunity."
The mayors urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to allow construction of the pipeline to resume as soon as the project’s permits are resolved in the courts.
McGee said the resource and added pressure the pipeline will supply to the system will be plentiful enough to support new industries, commercial businesses and manufacturers for decades to come — a need that has been identified and championed by economic developers from Raleigh to the coast.
From the three planned delivery points off the ACP, Piedmont Natural Gas and Dominion Energy will distribute natural gas across the state through their existing pipeline systems. This means you do not need a tap in every town or for every business, McGee said.
"Residential, commercial and industrial customers will benefit, and economic growth will be the natural offshoot of the boost in infrastructure, McGee said. "The ACP continues to offer the best, most cost-effective solution for our customers and to the region at large."
McGee provided the following answers to the question, why build the pipeline?
- To fuel power plants and provide cleaner and affordable electricity, the backbone of modern society.
- For natural gas utilities to reliably serve growth in North Carolina and keep homes and businesses warm at an affordable price for decades to come.
- To ensure the state has an alternate supply of natural gas if something were to interrupt its only interstate supply of natural gas.
- To enable continued growth in renewable energy, backed up by natural gas, a 24/7 provider of energy. Duke Energy has been aggressively adding renewable energy to its system, enabling North Carolina to rise to. No. 2 in the nation for solar power.
- To provide the infrastructure and added natural gas supply that allows new industries to locate in eastern North Carolina, bringing better-paying jobs and more economic prosperity to all counties along and east of Interstate 95.
McGee said the pipeline isn't intentionally routed through poorer counties in North Carolina, as suggested by a handful of Rocky Mount residents who have panned the pipeline at recent City Council meetings.
"The route of the ACP is where Duke Energy needs the natural gas to produce electricity and where Piedmont Natural Gas needs additional resources to provide heating, pressure and other services to homes and businesses in the years to come," McGee said. "We already have an interstate natural gas supply line west of Charlotte running across the state to the Greensboro area that serves the western and central regions of North Carolina, delivering natural gas, economic opportunity and a higher standard of living. There’s no doubt that communities in eastern North Carolina deserve a brighter and more prosperous future.
"The ACP will actually help to restore economic balance in NC, providing opportunity and paving the way to prosperity for some of the most disadvantaged counties in the state."
McGee said the courts are starting to turn in favor of the pipeline.
Late Tuesday, the U.S. Solicitor General filed a petition for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of the Fourth Circuit’s ruling vacating ACP’s U.S. Forest Service approvals. Pipeline backers filed a similar petition alongside the Department of Justice.
"These petitions further support ACP’s efforts to seek resolution to challenges regarding the Appalachian Trail crossing," McGee said.
As far as safety goes, more than 200 other pipelines and electric transmission lines have been permitted to cross the Appalachian Trail for decades, she said.
"They have done so without disturbing its public use or enjoyment," McGee said. "The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be no different. The Fourth Circuit overturned this longstanding precedent with its decision, and we’re appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to restore it. The facts are on our side, and so are the law and decades of precedent. Every agency involved in this case agrees that the Forest Service has the authority to approve our crossing of the Appalachian Trail. The Solicitor General’s petition strengthens our case."