Murchison "Bo" Biggs, Contributing columnist
I know we don’t have sports anymore, but there was a major upset this week. The unknown and little used team of common sense won something. Seriously. Of course common sense has pretty much become the Cleveland Browns of modern day life: a perennial loser. But along came the Supreme Court of the United States and their ruling in favor of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, handing the team of common sense a trip to the Super Bowl!
I’ll stop with my football analogy, and for those who haven’t followed this case too closely, here’s the long and short of what the Supreme Court did. Right now more than 50 different pipelines run under the footpath called the Appalachian Trail (key word: under). Hikers on that trail don’t even know those pipelines are there, just like we don’t notice the pipelines running underground all over our neck of the woods. In order for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to get natural gas from West Virginia to here in eastern North Carolina, the developers needed to run the pipeline under (there’s that word again: under) a .1-mile section of the trail. Think about what a distance of .1 miles is. If you have a somewhat long driveway, or an average street, walk down it. Walk back to the house. You’re close to .1 miles right there. That’s the length we are talking about within the context of a 600 mile long project.
The developers of the pipeline painstakingly designed it to enter the ground a half mile away from the Appalachian Trail, and come back out another half mile away. The pipeline will be 600 feet, or two football fields to use that analogy again, beneath the trail. All this means a hiker walking along this footpath will have no clue the pipeline is there. Just like they don’t know the other 50 are there either. And in response to this, national environmental groups went nuts. They raised tons of money to fight this tenth-of-a-mile project and then sued in every court they could find, and heck maybe even some they couldn’t!
It was a financial windfall for their lawyers, raking in those big fees, but it was terrible for families and businesses who needed natural gas to heat their homes and run their companies. It’s just been disastrous for eastern North Carolina’s workers. The lawsuits from these out-of-state environmentalists have doubled the cost of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and delayed its construction by at least three years. Those delays have meant that new businesses can’t get up and running, and good jobs can’t be created. I think we would all agree we desperately need good new jobs right now.
Thankfully, those delays and all that obstruction for construction is over. The Supreme Court of the United States made it clear that, yes, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can go under that tiny section of the Appalachian Trail, just like more than 50 other pipelines already do. So now, this 600-mile-long project can finally stop being held up because of lawyers and activists objecting to a .1-mile section running two football fields beneath a foot path. That’s what I mean by saying this was a victory for common sense.
The results will be immediate. Between 2021-2027 communities in North Carolina will gain more than $67 million in property tax revenue gained by just having the pipeline run quietly underground; just as invisible to us as it will be to the hikers on the Appalachian Trail walking over it, completely unaware of its existence. Robeson County alone will gain more than $7 million. With one victory for common sense we just gained millions for our schools, teachers, and roads that is desperately needed in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown. And now businesses who need a reliable natural gas infrastructure can finally know that Robeson County is ready for them to come here. We have the workforce talent, we all know that. Now we will also have the energy. That sound you hear is thousands of North Carolinians about to get good jobs right when we need them the most.
Now look, I know this isn’t good news for everyone. Like I said, the gravy train just ended for a bunch of high-priced lawyers paid by the page in each lawsuit. And some environmental activists sadly might lose their cushy contracts now that the Supreme Court has put an end to their obstruction. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles; or maybe that’s the way the pipeline tunnels. In any case, life in eastern North Carolina just got a lot better. A much-needed natural gas pipeline will be allowed, like dozens of others already, to go invisibly deep beneath a tiny section of a foot path, and the result will be thousands of good jobs, millions in economic development, and more reliable, affordable and cleaner energy for all of us.
Congratulations to common sense on a long overdue victory.
Murchison “Bo” Biggs is a local businessman and political observer.
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