ACP Pipeline Questioned on Environmental Justice

by Duane Nichols on April 10, 2018

Environmental Justice Concerns and the Proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline Route in North Carolina

Research Triangle Institute, Report ISSN 2378-7813, March 2018

Authors: Sarah Wraight, Julia Hofmann, Justine Allpress, and Brooks Depro

ABSTRACT— This report describes publicly available data sets and quantitative analysis that local communities can use to evaluate environmental justice concerns associated with pipeline projects. We applied these data and analytical methods to two counties in North Carolina (Northampton and Robeson counties) that would be affected by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). We compared demographic and vulnerability characteristics of census blocks, census block groups, and census tracts that lie within 1 mile of the proposed pipeline route with corresponding census geographies that lie outside of the 1-mile zone. Finally, we present results of a county-level analysis of race and ethnicity data for the entire North Carolina segment of the proposed ACP route. Statistical analyses of race and ethnicity data (US Census Bureau) and Social Vulnerability Index scores (University of South Carolina’s Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute) yielded evidence of significant differences between the areas crossed by the pipeline and reference geographies. No significant differences were found in our analyses of household income and cancer risk data.

INTRODUCTION — The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, (ACP) is a new underground natural gas transmission pipeline project that is proposed to run approximately 600 miles through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina (Atlantic Coast Pipeline to build $5 billion natural gas system, 2015). In August 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) established an environmental review timeline that included the delivery of draft and final environmental impact statements (EISs) required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). One of the purposes of EISs is to provide a “full and fair discussion of significant environmental impacts and … inform decision makers and the public of the reasonable alternatives which would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment” (40 C.F.R. § 1502.1, 1978). The draft EIS was prepared by FERC and released in late December 2016, marking the start of a 90-day public comment period. The final EIS was published in July 2017.

DISCUSSION — The draft EIS claims that because “impacts would occur along the entire pipeline route and in areas with a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds,” there is consequently “no evidence that [the pipeline] would cause a disproportionate share of high and adverse environmental or socioeconomic impacts on any racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group” (FERC, 2016, p. 4:413). FERC does not explain the factual basis for this conclusion; the criteria for establishing “disproportionate impact” on populations are not stated in the document.

Our test results suggest that in Northampton County disproportionately large numbers of American Indian residents and African American residents live within 1 mile of the pipeline route, whereas in Robeson County, disproportionately large numbers of American Indian residents and Hispanic/Latino residents live within 1 mile of the pipeline route. Our county-level demographic analysis points to broader-scale spatial inequities. If pipeline risks are indeed uniform along the entire route, as FERC (2016) argues in its environmental justice analysis, then our analysis provides evidence of disproportionate exposure of certain groups to pipeline impacts. In Robeson County, the census tracts within 1 mile of the pipeline route also have a significantly higher mean SoVI score relative to census tracts outside of 1 mile of the pipeline route.

FUTURE RESEARCH — Community advocates who reviewed the preliminary findings of this study suggested the need for a larger-scale analysis. The analysis would compare the current proposed route with older proposed and rejected routes to illustrate how environmental justice concerns varied with the changes in the proposed routes.

Although our research team incorporated additional social and environmental variables, the analysis could be strengthened by investigating the spatial distributions of other preexisting stressors, especially health concerns (e.g., heart disease, cancers related to nonrespiratory exposure pathways, diabetes) and environmental conditions (e.g., for floodplains, landfills, brown fields, water quality impairments, coal ash facilities, and waste deposits). Such analysis would ideally form part of a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of cumulative impacts and aggregate environmental risks to vulnerable communities, including those that are physically distant from the proposed route but have strong sociocultural connections to the area.

REFERENCE — Wraight, S., Hofmann, J., Allpress, J., and Depro, B. (2018). Environmental Justice Concerns and the Proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline Route in North Carolina. RTI Press Publication No. MR-0037-1803. Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI Press.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michele Morrone April 10, 2018 at 9:07 pm

Mountains of Injustice — Social and Environmental Justice in Appalachia

Edited by Michele Morrone and Geoffrey L. Buckley, Publication Year: 2011

Research in environmental justice reveals that low-income and minority neighborhoods in our nation’s cities are often the preferred sites for landfills, power plants, and polluting factories. Those who live in these sacrifice zones are forced to shoulder the burden of harmful environmental effects so that others can prosper. Mountains of Injustice broadens the discussion from the city to the country by focusing on the legacy of disproportionate environmental health impacts on communities in the Appalachian region, where the costs of cheap energy and cheap goods are actually quite high. Through compelling stories and interviews with people who are fighting for environmental justice, Mountains of Injustice contributes to the ongoing debate over how to equitably distribute the long-term environmental costs and consequences of economic development.



Kirk Jalbert April 11, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Newly released edited volume:

ExtrACTION: Impacts, Engagements, and Alternative Futures

Edited by Kirk Jalbert, Anna Willow, David Casagrande, and Stephanie Paladino

Foreword by June Nash, afterword by Jeanne Simonelli

Now available from and Routledge.

This timely volume examines resistance to natural resource extraction from a critical ethnographic perspective. Using a range of case studies from North, Central and South America, Australia, and Central Asia, the contributors explore how and why resistance movements seek to change extraction policies, evaluating their similarities, differences, successes and failures.

A range of ongoing debates concerning environmental justice, risk and disaster, sacrifice zones, and the economic cycles of boom and bust are engaged with, and the roles of governments, free markets and civil society groups re-examined. Incorporating contributions from authors in the fields of anthropology, public policy, environmental health, and community-based advocacy, ExtrACTION offers a robustly argued case for change.

It will make engaging reading for academics and students in the fields of critical anthropology, public policy, and politics, as well as activists and other interested citizens.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: