In a coup for environmentalists, the Department of Environmental Quality delayed a decision on whether to issue a permit for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a multibillion-dollar, six-hundred-mile project that would carry fracked gas through Virginia, West Virginia, and eastern North Carolina.
The DEQ faced a September 18 deadline to deny or permit the water-quality certification needed to construct the pipeline. The requirement comes from the federal Clean Water Act, which stipulates that states must certify that proposed pipeline projects won't violate water-quality standards before being built. The proposed ACP, which would traverse eight counties in North Carolina, would pass through more than 560 waterways in North Carolina.
The letter issued last week by the DEQ requests "additional information" from Duke Energy and Dominion, the two companies involved in the pipeline's construction, asking for "more site-specific detail to ensure that downstream water quality is protected."
The companies have one month to respond to the DEQ's inquiries, and the agency will then have two months to decide whether to grant the certification.
The pipeline has met with fierce criticism from environmental activists, who say the proposed route would adversely affect water quality and would lock the state into a fracked gas economy when renewable energy sources are widely available. Supporters say it would bring jobs and infrastructure to depressed parts of North Carolina—though a federal environmental impact study issued in July projects that the pipeline will result in just twenty permanent jobs in the Old North State.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, meanwhile, is slated to issue its final decision on the pipeline in mid-October. Even if the FERC approves the project, however, if the DEQ denies the water-quality permit, the ACP will be barred from construction.