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Group Launches Pipeline Monitoring Effort

RALEIGH — Sierra Club, Sound Rivers, Winyah Rivers and Cape Fear River Watch volunteers and staff will monitor the Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction activities by water, land and air to ensure potential violations are reported to the state Department of Environmental Quality, the organizations announced Wednesday in a joint release.

Regulators in July allowed the company building the gas pipeline to proceed with construction in North Carolina.

Volunteers and staff, as part of the initiative known as the North Carolina Pipeline Watch, say they will monitor construction for violations of environmental protections required by state and federal permits.

“The fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline is designed to maximize profits for polluting corporations, while our environmental safeguards are designed to protect our people and communities,” said Kelly Martin, director of the Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign for the Sierra Club, in a statement. “We helped launch the initiative to ensure the ACP doesn’t get away with violating the commonsense environmental protections that keep our air and water clean.”

The initiative is partly modeled on the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative program in Virginia that uses volunteer observers and residents to find suspected regulatory compliance violations and report them to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. A similar effort recently created enough public pressure in Virginia to halt construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in that state after reporting more than 150 violations to the Virginia DEQ.

“We can’t have companies trafficking in fracked gas playing fast and loose with measures that protect our communities and waterways from pollution like ACP has in other states,” said Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Forrest English in a statement. “Our goal is to hold ACP accountable every step of the way.”

Volunteers will observe the pipeline route by foot, boat and airplane in order to spot suspected violations, and to look for spills and pollution.

“We’re disappointed that construction of this risky and unnecessary fracked gas pipeline has been approved but we will continue to advocate and engage our community to protect the precious water resources of the Lumber River watershed through monitoring and enforcement of requirements,” said Christine Ellis, director of Winyah Rivers Foundation.

There is also a form online at www.ncpipelinewatch.org so residents in the path of the pipeline can report problems they find on their property or sign up to host a training near them. Experts will review the submissions and report confirmed violations to DEQ for enforcement.

“Threats to waterways from a construction project of this size will be enormous. If history is a guide, failures will happen. Our volunteers will be watching the project carefully, reporting violations in an effort to protect our waterways and hold the ACP accountable,” said Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper, in the release.

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.