*Note: This research is part of a larger project that I have recently presented at an Undergraduate Research Symposium with a fellow blogger. The link to his blog is HERE.
Have you ever contemplated where all the energy sources that you use in your everyday life come from? The gas that fuels your car, the power that lights your home and work or the fuel that heats your home. The age-old question with using fossil fuels to create heat and energy is usually, is this the only way? Is one form of energy better, cleaner, cheaper or can we use renewable energy? Recently the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has started to expand. This pipeline delivers natural gas from shale deposits in West Virginia. Recently the ACP has partnered with Dominion Energy to bring the pipeline south through Virginia and North Carolina. The local companies that are rallying to bring this in for their customers are Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and Southern Company Gas with the hype that the ACP will bring a cleaner cheaper source of fuel for customers to heat their homes. But what destruction will this bring to certain areas specifically Robeson County, North Carolina?
So as with any story, let’s start with the basics, shall we? The picture above shows where the ACP starts and the proposed route through Virginia and North Carolina. The 42-inch pipeline will be buried 3-5 feet underground and stretch 600 miles across the 3 states. The pipeline will end in my home state of North Carolina and the possible devastation that could occur will hurt the natural environment of many rivers and stream and cause years worth of harm.
The pipeline will go through 8 counties in North Carolina with 200 miles of pipeline. The pipeline will consequently end, with 30 miles of pipeline, in Robeson County.
As you can see the map above shows the route that the pipeline will take through Robeson County. One of the concerns is that if a leak happens that water quality could possibly be destroyed. The counties main concern is what will happen to the Lumber River, the counties prominent river. The Lumber River is very important to Robeson County whether, for Lumbee tribe connections, environmental concerns or even for a natural draw for tourist, canoers, and kayakers, especially since the Lumber River is part of the National Wild and Scenic River system. However, the pipeline does not cross that Lumber River it does cross watersheds that will eventually lead into the Lumber River downstream.
Now there wouldn’t be any issues with a natural gas pipeline if it was safe, however, there have been accidents involving natural gas pipelines for years. For example, between 2008 and 2012, there were 370 significant safety incidents. Caused by:
- equipment failure
These incidents led to 10 fatalities, 85 injuries, and 311 significant safety incidents at natural gas distribution pipelines. With this data, it helps us understand that incidents are far more likely than natural gas companies lead us to believe. The leak rate is somewhere between 2-9% and if greater than 2%, then natural gas is more detrimental to the environment than coal (CO2). Coal is a very prominent heat source for winter but many are trying to get away from coal because of the environmental effect. But when comparing coal to natural gas which is methane (CH4) it is also is a greenhouse gas (GHG), and CH4 takes longer to break down than CO2.
With this map, created from geospatial data using ArcGIS, it shows the watersheds that the proposed pipeline will cross through Robeson County. If a leak occurs the potential of contamination in the water is very high. Possible contamination of water downstream from the pipeline in Robeson County:
- 9 Immediate Watersheds
- 10 Secondary Watersheds
- 19 Public Water Supply
Two major concerns with the pipeline crossing watersheds are that the pipeline crosses Raft Swamp which meets the Lumber River and Big Marsh Swamp and Tenmile Swamp that leads to Big Swamp Canal eventually moves into the Lumber River.
Other major negative effects of the pipeline are the damage to the local environment from the construction and operation of the pipeline. There is a risk of contamination or leaks and the effect on water quality if pipeline accidents occur. All in all these following things will occur:
- Disruption and/or the loss of 450 acres of wetlands
- Pollution of 300 rivers and stream, including tributaries to the Lumber River
- Pollute groundwater and wells along with shallow aquifers
- Long term sedimentation and erosion issues
- Possibility of explosions
- Greenhouse Gas effect
Although all of these problems can and will happen when the pipeline is constructed there is another major issue with the pipeline coming through Robeson County. Piedmont Natural Gas company is planning to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Robeson County between Maxton and Red Springs. The facility will be a 1 billion-cubic-foot LNG that can serve about 100,000 homes during the winter and on very cold days. The facility is used to store the excess gas during the summer and will hold the extra that will be needed in the winter when demand is high.
With this extra LNG facility, it raises the questions of, how will they transfer the gas, by truck or will more pipeline be run through the county? Will this facility be safe? What is the danger level of liquified gas? The most important question is why does THIS county need this facility?
This is just the overlying cost of the pipeline being built. I know I have not touched on all the issues or problems that can come from the pipeline or how far the issues will reach instead of just through one county. But this is the beginning of a larger issue that if the pipeline is built the local population will have to deal with when construction starts.
Thank you for reading and remember to be an Adventurer and to get up and go near, go far, go from sea to shining sea, just get up and go discover what YOU can offer America!
-Safe travels from a Carolina Girl
- Decker, Tia, et al. Effects of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson County, NC. 2017, pp. 1–29, Effects of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson County, NC.
- Groeger, Lena V. “Pipelines Explained: How Safe Are America’s 2.5 Million Miles of Pipelines?” ProPublica.org, ProPublica, 2012, www.propublica.org/article/pipelines-explained-how-safe-are-americas-2.5-million-miles-of-pipelines
- Hunter, T.C. “ACP Gets Go-Ahead in NC.” Robesonian, 26 July 2018, www.robesonian.com/top-stories/113600/acp-gets-go-ahead-in-nc
- Karen Edelstein. Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ArcGIS Online, 2015
- Murawski, John, and John Murawski. “Atlantic Coast Pipeline Construction Halts as Court Reviews 4 Endangered Species.” Newsobserver, News & Observer, 10 Dec. 2018, www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article222856155.html
- NC DEQ, Division of Water Resources, Public Water Supply Section. Public Water Supply Water Sources. NC Onemap Geospatial Portal, 2017.
- “North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.” NC DEQ, deq.nc.gov/news/hot-topics/pipelines/acp
- North Carolina Department of Transportation. NCDOT ArcGIS Online Portal (aka GO!NC). ArcGIS Online Portal: NCDOT, 2015.
- “Robeson Liquefied Natural Gas Facility.” Piedmont Natural Gas | Robeson Liquefied Natural Gas Facility, http://www.piedmontng.com/about/pipelineprojects/robesonlng.aspx.
- United States Geologic Survey. National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) 1:24,000. USGS and USDA – NRCS.
- USGS and USDA – NRCS. Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD). NRCS Version, 2013.
- “Why We Need to Restore FloodPlains.” American Rivers River Connect Us, www.americanrivers.org/threats-solutions/restoring-damaged-rivers/benefits-of-restoring-floodplains/
Drive Time 3:45