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Atlantic Coast Pipeline Work Restarts as Opponents Decry 'Rushed Decisions'
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled Monday that work could resume on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which opponents call "unnecessary and a boondoggle," the Charlotte Business Journal reported.
Work on the controversial pipeline halted last month after a federal appeals court vacated two permits required for the project to complete its 600 mile route from West Virginia, through Virginia, to North Carolina.
The pipeline is a project backed by Duke Energy, Dominion Energy and Southern Co. to carry fracked natural gas.
The permits in question, from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Park Service (NPS) were redone Sept. 11 and 14 respectively, the FERC said in its letter authorizing construction.
"We fixed those issues and FERC lifted our stay. So our folks are back to work, starting today," Dominion Resources State Policy Manager Bob Orndorff told the West Virginia state legislature Tuesday, MetroNews reported.
But pipeline opponents were skeptical of the new permits.
"These two agencies got into trouble once for making rushed decisions on a political timetable," Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) lawyer D.J. Gerken told the Charlotte Business Journal. "The agencies turned very fast and, as far as we can tell, without much concern for whether they were done correctly."
SELC brought the court case that led the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the permits.
The court found that the original NPS permit was invalid because it did not explain how the tree-cutting necessary for the pipeline's passage through the Blue Ridge Parkway would not contradict its scenic purpose.
The original FWS permit, meanwhile, did not adequately address the pipeline's impact on endangered species, the court ruled.
Gerken told The Charlotte Business Journal that the SELC is reviewing the FERC decision and will decide promptly whether to appeal or not.
The Sierra Club agreed that the new permits seemed rushed.
"Rather than taking the time to address the major problems we have seen in federal agencies' reviews of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, these agencies continue to rush through a rubberstamp process that ignores legal requirements—not to mention the public interest," Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director Kelly Martin said in a statement.
The Sierra Club said the original permits were rushed through due to pressure from utilities and the Trump administration.
"We don't even need these fracked gas pipelines in the first place, so not only should the stop work order remain in place, all construction should be permanently halted," Martin said.
"We are closely monitoring weather conditions across the project footprint and will of course only resume work in areas where it is safe to do so and where weather conditions permit," pipeline spokesperson Aaron Ruby told the Charlotte Business Journal.
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By Will Sarni
It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.
The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future
We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.
"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.
One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.
Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.
Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.
These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.
We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).
We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.
We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.
Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.
Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
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