What is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?

Right now, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is only a plan on Dominion Power and Duke Energy's wish list, but the plan is for a massive, and unprecedented, 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline intended to start in the fracking fields of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virgina; then travel 600 miles through Virginia; and end in Robeson County, North Carolina. Its route would cut through the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Allegheny Highlands, The George Washington National Forest, the Great Easter Trail, and the Appalachian Trail, crossing many streams, rivers, waterbeds, and wetlands.

Why is the ACP a Problem?

The short answer: The ACP is unnecessary, and it is dangerous for people and the surrounding environment. There is every expectation that it would eventually fail, and it perpetuates dependence on a fossil fuel energy source when research suggests that the U.S. should be investing in renewable sources for its energy infrastructure.

The long answer - where to begin?

First, the scale of the project itself is unheard of. While it is the case that there are already gas lines around the U.S., none compares in diameter and few compare in length. The ACP would become one of the largest natural gas pipelines in the country. That is assuming it can actually be built, and given the proposed route of the pipeline, even this is in question. No company has ever attempted to build such a large pipeline in a region like the one proposed: it is filled with steep hills and mountains that are dotted with sensitive, fractured rock beds. It is lush with dense forests, and soaked with rivers, streams, and water-sheds - the water from these eventually makes its way into drinking reservoirs.

The construction of the pipeline itself would require a 125-foot-wide construction corridor to be bulldozed along its route, along with an 8-12 foot-deep trench. Besides the swaths of land to be disturbed for the pipeline itself, the project will require hundreds of miles of roads for access as well as thousands of square feet of cleared area to stage equipment. Ultimately, the project would change the face of over 12,000 acres of land. With a project of this scope, it is a certainty that it will have negative impacts on erosion (causing landslides), endangered and protected species in the region (interrupting important aquatic life stages), and even tourism in areas that could be blocked (or who's aesthetic value is greatly reduced) by the construction.

If the pipeline were built, the damage done in the process of building it would take years to repair, and some would be irreparable. But that would only be the beginning. Gas pipelines have a well-documented history of failure. They often leak, and can explode. If the ACP leaked - which is almost inevitable - it could contaminate surrounding watersheds, dozens of streams, and groundwater sources. If the pipeline exploded, it's hard to assess the potential for damage, but many pipeline explosions have been lethal. According to the Sierra Club's Virginia Chapter, "Since 1986, there have been over 7940 incidents, 512 fatalities, 2,359 injuries and over $6.8 billion in property damages due to pipeline explosions, including recent explosions in Appomattox and Fauquier Counties, Virginia."

Perhaps one of the biggest problems with the ACP is that it unnecessarily increases the nation's dependence on fracking to extract natural gas. While Dominion & Duke claim affected states need additional gas in order to fuel gas plants, Virginia and North Carolina already have natural gas sources (or else they wouldn't have been able to get the permits for their natural gas plants originally), and those sources are expected to last through 2030 - longer if the use of renewable energy sources increases. Dominion & Duke really want to be able to sell fracked gas to domestic suppliers who will then export it out of the country. Fracking for gas is a dangerous process that has already increased earthquakes in the mid-west, and that threatens to permanently poison water supplies and aquifers. If we don't need the gas (and we don't), we absolutely should not encourage more fracking. Read more below to find out exactly what fracking is, and why it's even worse than coal.

Finally, the ACP route appears to target rural areas, and its landowners are disproportionately minorities, including indigenous peoples, African-Americans, and seniors, as well as others who are vulnerable to pressure from a large company to sell their land, or right of way on it, for less than its market value. If given the permit to build, Dominion & Duke are willing to use eminent domain to remove people from their homes where necessary, and even disrupt the lands of native peoples along the way. Those who refuse, or are unable to navigate the legal waters to resist, would be forced to comply. The pipeline would ultimately reduce their property values, restrict use on top of it (as nothing can be built atop the pipeline, or on a large area around it), and is likely to cause health problems. Residents living near compressor stations would be at even greater risk; according to NC Warn they have "suffered nosebleeds, nausea, rashes, and headaches due to spikes in [gas] releases."

This is only a brief overview of the numerous problems with the ACP. It doesn't even begin to take into account everything that's wrong with FERC's DEIS.

What Can I Do to Stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?

First, keep reading, and follow up on the recommended resources and links. The more informed you are, the better you'll be able to share what you know with others, and the more you'll have to say each time you get the chance to speak up.

Second, YOU HAVE UNTIL APRIL 6, 2017 TO SUBMIT COMMENTS TO FERC with your opinion about the pipeline. Send your opinion to FERC here.

If you need help getting through the comment process, Wild Virginia has a great guide for you, here. And if you're not sure what to say or write, here are some samples to inspire you:

Third, save these important dates on your calendar to raise awareness, stand together with other water and land protectors, and keep the ACP out:

  • February 22, 2017: FERC Public Hearing on ACP DEIS - Lovingston, 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
  • February 23, 2017: FERC Public Hearing on ACP DEIS - Staunton, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  • Feburary 28, 2017: FERC Public Hearing on ACP DEIS - Monterey, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  • March 4-19, 2017: North Carolina Alliance to Protect Our People and the Places We Live (APPPL): Stop the Pipeline Walk
  • March 10-11, 2017: Sandhills Clean Energy Summit
  • March 17-19, 2017: Robeson County Lumbee Spring Equinox Celebration
  • April 6, 2017: Deadline for ACP DEIS Comments, 5 PM
  • April 29, 2017: People's Climate March - 9 AM - 4 PM in Washington DC, to stand up for our communities and climate

Bi-Weekly Protests at Dominion Virginia Power

Join the Knitting Nanas of Virginia from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at Dominion Virginia Power (Charlottesville headquarters), 1719 Hydraulic Rd., Charlottesville 22901 on these dates:

  • February 22, 2017
  • March 1, 2017
  • March 8, 2017
  • March 15, 2017
  • March 22, 2017

Never Silent will work to update important events as we find them.

What is Fracking?

'Fracking' is short for Hydraulic Fracturing. It's a dangerous method of obtaining natural gas that starts with drilling deeply to reach shale layers; using calculated explosions to create cracks in the shale; forcing a slurry of water, chemicals, radioactive material, and sand into the cracks; then pulling it back out to extract the captured gases.

The resulting cracks destabilize nearby tectonic plates, causing earthquakes. Much of the fracking fluid remains behind in the fracking well, or is returned to it once the gas is extracted. Leaks in these lines, along with methane released in the initial drilling process, often seep into nearby ground water resources and aquifers, poisoning them.

While the ACP is not a fracking pipeline itself, the gas flowing through it will come from fracking pads, encouraging their continued use.

Here are some excellent videos that explain it even better:

What is FERC?

FERC is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It has jurisdiction over interstate gas pipelines in the U.S., and can grant or deny a permit to build the ACP.

What's a DEIS?

DEIS stands for Draft Environmental Impact Statement; it is FERC's assessment of how a pipeline will impact the environment in which it is proposed based on a number of factors including damage to natural resources, change in property values, and dangers to citizens, among others.

Read the DEIS for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

FERC's DEIS for the ACP is woefully inadequate, missing key risks for failure, avoiding important geological and archaeological surveys, and other essential information. The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition's presentation Drilling Through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the ACP: A High Risk Proposal is among the best resources to study just how insufficient this DEIS is.

You can also take a look at APPPL's analysis of the DEIS here.

Read FERC's DEIS in response to the current proposed plan for the ACP.

Where Can I Find More Information?

North Carolina Alliance to Protect Our People and The Places We Live
Sierra Club Virginia Chapter: Pipelines Issue
Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition
NC Warn: Atlantic Coast Pipeline
Friends of Nelson County

Image of pipeline construction from Friends of Nelson County
Fracking Infographic by Crystal Warren
Special thanks to Greg Yost & Kendall Hale at 2017 ACP Walk and Anne Schrader & Maria Cantu at Fayetteville Women's Action Network for assistance with resources.