Nov. 13–WADE — Land is being cleared in Cumberland County for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but opponents still hope to stop the project.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, which is building the pipeline, was formed by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Company Gas. The company plans to build the 600-mile pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina at an estimated cost of $6.5 billion to $7 billion.
Crews near Wade have set up multi-colored pennant banners in areas where they are working and piled soil and mulch near roadways. Workers are using bulldozers and other heavy equipment to clear a path for the pipeline.
Supporters say the pipeline will provide a safe, clean source of power that will lower the cost of energy and help economic development. Opponents say they worry about potential dangers from the project and believe the state should rely more on renewable energy such as solar and wind power.
About 186 miles of the 36-inch pipeline is scheduled to go through North Carolina. The proposed route calls for it to run through the northwest corner of Sampson County and near Godwin, Wade, Eastover, Cedar Creek and Gray’s Creek in Cumberland County, and St. Pauls in Robeson County before ending near Pembroke.
Bridget Munger, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said company officials received a stormwater permit for the contractor’s yard in Cumberland County last month.
“They have received the required environmental permits and approvals to proceed with work on the project,” she said.
Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for Dominion Energy, said the company building the pipeline also has gotten the needed federal permits.
“We’re moving full steam ahead,” he said.
Mac Legerton, a Robeson County minister who opposes the pipeline, said two lawsuits — one each in federal court and state court — are challenging the project.
“This situation is long from over,” he said.
The federal suit challenges the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the pipeline.
A state lawsuit in Robeson County seeks to overturn a permit granted by the county Board of Commissioners for a Metering and Regulating Station.
Ruby said workers are clearing and grading land in the Cumberland County area. Crews are expected to start installing pipe soon in the northern part of the state, he said.
The pipeline had originally been expected to be finished by late next year, but company officials now plan to take a “phased approach,” Ruby said. About 70 percent is scheduled to be completed by late 2019 with the rest finished by mid-2020, he said.
“That will help utilities get through the next winter heating season and then bring the entire project on line in time for summer cooling,” he said.
Legerton said he doesn’t think the company should be able to work on the project while the lawsuits are pending.
“They start construction,” he said. “That makes people think there’s nothing they can do.”
The pipeline project has generated debate since it was proposed more than three years ago. State officials held several public meetings to get feedback on needed permits, with opponents often outnumbering supporters.
The state had to approve plans related to soil and erosion control, stormwater and water quality. Regulators asked for more information from pipeline officials several times before granting permits.
Staff writer Steve DeVane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3572.
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