The state of North Carolina is roughly 500 miles long and 150 miles wide. The well-known “Murphy to Manteo” description takes on new meaning if you drive it, but the political issues and attitudes that change along the way mean the depth of the state is gigantic.
So while the Murphy slice of NC life is currently in the throes of preparing for an invasion of solar eclipse tourists on and near the 21st of August (invasion of the sun-snatchers?), in the middle of the state the capital city is preparing to host a second special session of the NC General Assembly beginning August 18, and the coastal plains are facing life-changing and environment-changing decisions around the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and offshore drilling.
Let’s first look thoughtfully to the east, where a proposed pipeline is mapped across eight NC counties.
What’s this about a pipeline?
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, according to a June 26 article in the industry publication Utility Dive, is a “contentious” project by Dominion Energy (with co-owner Duke Energy) that will stretch 600 miles from North Carolina into West Virginia, crossing 2,900 private properties “as well as the Monogahala National Forest in West Virginia, and the George Washington National Forest in Virginia. As an interstate pipeline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is responsible for siting approval, although additional permission is needed in the national forests from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and in the state of North Carolina for water quality issues.
This state’s portion of the proposed pipeline, according to an analysis by NC Policy Watch, threatens drinking water and property values, and poses other environmental threats — questions that brought out hundreds of attendees to two recent hearings concerning water quality and buffer requirements for the pipeline. This, despite the assurance of the FERC’s environmental impact statement’s conclusion that, according to the Policy Watch article, “as long as Duke and Dominion contractors followed the rules — apparently discounting the likelihood of human error and unanticipated problems – permanent impacts to water, wildlife and the welfare of the eastern North Carolina ecosystems could be mitigated.”
That article further states that the “studies have not been comprehensive” and that key information regarding on endangered species and habitat loss had not yet been conducted when the draft was open for public comment. Potential degradations were cited for the Neuse River, in particular, because of its “variety of endangered, threatened and rare species.” Plans for a “cofferdam” (a watertight enclosure) would require removal of aquatic life from the (cofferdam) area.
Clean Water for North Carolina, a nonprofit focused on safe drinking water that works within affected communities, calls the “highly pressurized” pipeline “dangerous, expensive, and unneeded,” posing a threat to “NC’s waters, wetlands, and the aquatic and human life that depend on them.”
The NC Department of Environmental Quality is about to host three “listening sessions” for community feedback on the project, which must be granted a state 401 Water Quality Certification by the Division of Water Resources. The sessions will take place on August 15 at Nash Community College, Rocky Mount; August 16 at Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center, Jackson, and August 17 at Southeastern Agricultural Center, Lumberton. Speaker registration for all three sessions will start at 5:30 p.m.; listening sessions begin at 6 pm. Additionally, comments on the proposal will be taken until 5 pm on August 19 (email to http://firstname.lastname@example.org and include “ACP” in the subject line, or write to 401 Permitting, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1617).
When the legislature returns
Look for veto overrides, perhaps some slippery legislation (many bills are still eligible for action that were not given final consideration in regular session), and the electric topic of court-mandated redistricting in the 28 districts judged (by no less than the U.S. Supreme Court) to have been racially gerrymandered. The redrawing of these districts could have a ripple effect into as many as 116 of the state’s 170 state legislative districts, according to speculation.
The ill-addressed factor in this undertaking is that since 2011, when the state’s legislative maps were redrawn according to the 2010 census figures, there have been 28 racially gerrymandered districts where elected officials have wielded legislative power up until this point in time. And despite a call by the governor, this dis-entitled legislative body has been hauled kicking and screaming to the table of restitution. (Just a short editorial opinion, if you don’t mind. —Editor)
When the sun goes dark
PPNC has to mention the August 21 solar eclipse, because that is a requirement for every publication having anything whatsoever to do with the state of North Carolina.
By the time this extraordinary phenomenon reaches our western border, the eclipse will have made “landfall” on the West Coast (just north of Newport, Oregon) around 9:06 am (PDT) and traveled across the country — with a lot of people traveling too. Traffic predictions for the western tip of North Carolina will be available from the NC Department of Transportation.
Needless to say, the tourism industry along the swath of the eclipse has been touting the phenomenon for quite a while, and our Murphy is in the direct path — meaning it will see a full two minutes and twenty-eight seconds of “totality” when the moon blots out the sun. The partial phase begins at 1:05:32 pm (EDT); totality starts at 2:34:26 pm. The list of area activities is available on the town’s website. Other towns along the way have festivities galore. Pray for fair weather.
By Nelda Holder, Editor