It would have provided more options for consumers and producers of energy. It would likely have kept costs down on all sides. It would have likely created jobs and economic development in eastern North Carolina. But thanks to Roy Cooper and his pals, we can kiss all that GOODBYE:
The CEO of the NC Chamber, the state’s major business promotion organization, slammed the efforts by opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to prompt Duke Energy and Dominion Energy to cancel the $8 billion project, calling it a devastating decision for a region that has lagged in economic growth.
The move shows how “extreme environmental groups” used lawsuits to harm local communities in eastern North Carolina that need energy diversification and more jobs, Gary Salamido said in a statement.
“Make no mistake, the developers didn’t pull the plug on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project,” he said. “The opponents of fossil fuels did, with the aid of their well-funded, highly coordinated, national-in-scope legal machinery.”
Salamido cited permitting delays, legal challenges, court decisions and increased litigation risks for prompting the two giant utilities to fold the project after investing $3.4 billion. The pipeline was supposed to deliver natural gas from New York and Pennsylvania to Virginia and eastern North Carolina regions that don’t have such service. Its initial projected cost of $4.5 billion to $5 billion in 2014 has ballooned to about $8 billion because of delays and higher expenses.
Environmental activists praised the utilities’ decision and urged them to invest more in renewable energy sources. They also have complained that the pipeline would cause too much harm to natural areas including crossing the Appalachian Trail.
Gov. Roy Cooper and Michael Regan, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, said the move would help the state advance its clean-energy agenda.
But Salamido said, “It is devastating. …. A handful of environmental groups with an extreme agenda and unlimited novel legal theories has canceled jobs and economic opportunity for real North Carolinians. Their mission is to stop the deployment of fossil fuel, and they have rewritten decades of legal and regulatory precedent to do it.”
Natural gas is lower cost and environmentally superior to other forms of energy, he said.
“North Carolina’s energy and economic future depends upon a balanced, all-of-the-above energy development strategy and yesterday’s news about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline shows that some environmentalists and courts only want to take options off the table,” Salamido said. “Meanwhile, eastern North Carolina waits.”
Also, U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the decision by builders to cancel the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is “disappointing” but “economically rational.”
He called it a “a lost opportunity because of the number of jobs that would have been created in places like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina,” Brouillette told Fox Business News.
Reaction from around the state, on both sides, was swift:
[…] “While we’re disappointed that we’re not able to move forward with ACP, we will continue exploring ways to help our customers and communities, particularly in eastern North Carolina where the need is great,” Duke Energy President and CEO Lynn Good said in a statement.
The pipeline was to run from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina, including in Northampton, Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland and Robeson counties.
In a news release, The Southern Environmental Law Center called the decision a victory for public lands, landowners in the pipeline’s path, and “for all North Carolinians and Virginians who deserve a clean energy future” and won’t have to pay for an $8 billion pipeline.
“This is a victory for all the communities that were in the path of this risky and unnecessary project,” law center senior attorney Greg Buppert said in a statement. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was wrong from the start. After years of opposition, legal defeats and threats to the environment, SELC is relieved to see Duke and Dominion make the right decision to walk away from it.”
An investigation for the Republican-controlled legislature concluded last year that Cooper had “improperly used the authority and influence of his office” in the pipeline permitting, The News & Observer reported. As approval of a key water quality permit was announced in January 2018, the Democratic governor said the energy companies had agreed to a $57.8 million fund for environmental mitigation, economic development and renewable energy.
Duke Energy has said that the company did not see the mitigation fund as conditional to the permit approval.
Cooper’s office had called the investigation a “sham.”
Environmentalists and community groups had pressured Department of Environmental Quality to revoke the water quality permit.
Last summer, environmental groups petitioned DEQ to revoke the permit, saying that major impacts in Robeson County had not been disclosed in the application.
When Cooper presented a state clean-energy plan last year that aims to reduce greenhouse gases from electricity production, environmentalists criticized the efforts over the pipeline permit.
Last year, the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board under DEQ passed a “statement of concern” over the pipeline.
Cooper said in a statement Sunday saying, “This decision and the changing energy landscape should lead to cleaner and more reliable energy generation in North Carolina. Our Clean Energy Plan provides an excellent framework and stakeholder process for renewable energy moving forward.”