Local and citizen groups object to N.C. DEQ’s flawed permit for $5.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline

A number of local residents came out to protest the proposed compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline slated to be built in North Carolina’s Northampton County. (© David Neal/SELC)

Update (12/7): This week North Carolina Division of Air Quality withheld, for the time being, its approval for the Northampton compressor station and requested more information from developers. The agency’s questions reflect criticisms outlined in SELC’s earlier comment letter highlighting faults in the permit.

Today more than a dozen local, statewide, and national citizen groups asked North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality to withdraw a draft air permit for the proposed Northampton Compressor Station, a large facility that would expose people living in the community to toxic air pollution. SELC submitted comments on behalf of a large coalition representing growing community opposition to the compressor station and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which it would serve.

“The Department of Environmental Quality should not allow Duke Energy and its partners to move forward with their proposed polluting compressor station until they can show that it won’t put the community’s health at risk,” said SELC attorney David Neal. “Without more information, DEQ cannot complete a thorough health assessment or ensure that this project would comply with air quality laws designed to protect people’s health from the dangers of air pollution.”

The Northampton Compressor Station is one of three large stations proposed in North Carolina and Virginia along the route of the proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Recent analysis has shown that this $5.5 billion pipeline is not necessary to meet energy demand in the region, but is likely to be a windfall for utilities, including Duke Energy.

Compressor stations, placed along gas pipeline routes, use gas-fired turbines to maintain pressure in, and allow gas to move through, the pipeline. These large, industrial-scale facilities emit air pollutants like smog-forming nitrogen oxide, toxic ammonia, benzene, and formaldehyde, and have been found to emit chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, putting at risk the health of people living nearby.

The proposed location for the Northampton station near Pleasant Hill calls into question compliance with the state environmental agency’s long-standing Environmental Equity policy requiring the agency to consider potential environmental harm to minority, tribal, and low-income communities when permitting projects. In light of this and other issues with the project, we call on North Carolina DEQ to withdraw the draft air permit and complete a thorough environmental justice review and health assessment of the community that would be subject to the air pollution from this facility.

SELC filed today’s comments on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP,  Northampton Branch of the NAACP, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Concerned Citizens of Tillery, North Carolina Conservation Network, Clean Air Carolina, North Carolina Council of Churches, North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light, 350 Triangle, Rachel Carson Council, and the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe.

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