Environmental Injustice: Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Give us your land, you poor, huddled masses:

In North Carolina, from a compressor station, built somewhere in these woods of Pleasant Hill, the 36-inch diameter pipeline would continue underground. It would braid itself around I-95, cutting through wetlands, rivers and valuable farmland — even near homes — in seven more counties in eastern North Carolina: Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland and Robeson. Through communities of color, including former routes of the Underground Railroad, and Native American tribal lands. Through some of the poorest areas in the state.

Bolding mine, because we continue to engage in the same mistakes of 50-60 years ago, by pushing our dirty industrial operations into the poorest of areas. North Carolina is already in trouble with the Federal government (or was until the Dingus-in-Chief took over) for endangering poor African-American communities with CAFOs, but the toxins and catastrophic fire threats associated with NatGas transmission can turn deadly, in the blink of an eye. While economic factors might make this pipeline route the "path of least resistance," that's when government is supposed to step in and balance the scale for these folks. When we abdicate that most simple of responsibilities, we become (much) less of a democracy and more a corporatocracy. And FERC appears to be irreversibly contaminated with that mentality:

The pipeline is subject to approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Known as FERC, it regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil. Utilities must file an application with FERC, which issues Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity for construction or extension of natural gas lines. FERC can also elect not to issue a certificate, but that rarely occurs. Last December, FERC issued a legally required Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project. The DEIS, as it’s known, ostensibly lays out the economic, environmental and social justice impacts of the ACP.

Yet even at 1,000-plus pages, the DEIS gives short shrift to the environmental justice implications of the ACP. FERC acknowledged that census data shows that compared to state averages, a higher percentage of low-income and minorities live near the route. In Northampton County, for example, 58 percent of residents are African-American. In adjoining Halifax County, that figure is 53 percent.

However, in just a three-page section on environmental justice, FERC concluded there would be “no disproportionate share of high and adverse” environmental justice impacts on any group as a result of the pipeline.

What an exercise in futility. Why even collect the data if you're going to completely ignore it? That's a rhetorical question. I know the answer, and I don't like it.

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