Power companies agreed to pay $11M in environmental mitigation for pipeline permit

Power companies agreed to pay $11M in environmental mitigation for pipeline permit

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - The two power companies behind a controversial pipeline that will run through ten counties in North Carolina agreed to pay $11 million in environmental mitigation costs as part of the permitting process through the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, WBTV has learned.

The $11 million of mitigation funds is separate from a second fund that was made public hours after DEQ announced the pipeline permits had been approved.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a joint effort by Duke Energy and Dominion Energy to build a pipeline from West Virginia down the east coast, through Virginia and North Carolina. In North Carolina, the pipeline would run through ten counties that roughly trace the I-95 corridor.

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As a condition for DEQ granting critical water permits needed for the ACP to be built in North Carolina, the companies agreed to contribute $11 million towards environmental mitigation efforts. Paying for environmental mitigation as part of the permitting process is not unusual, Dominion Energy spokesman Aaron Ruby said when reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Ruby confirmed the two companies had agreed to pay $11 million for stream and wetland mitigation. He did not provide additional details about the fund and deferred additional questions to DEQ.

In response to a request for comment from WBTV, Jamie Kritzer, a DEQ spokesman, disputed the station's reporting that the companies had agreed to pay $11 million.

"Not sure where you are getting your information but your story is inaccurate," Kritzer said in an email.

Instead, Kritzer provided invoices from DEQ to the companies behind the pipeline for roughly $5.8 million.

Multiple sources tell WBTV the $11 million in total mitigation funds paid by the companies include the amount invoiced by DEQ as well as payments to other mitigation efforts.

"As part of the 401 water quality certification, the company has to mitigate to restore wetlands and mitigate for buffer impacts during construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline," Kritzer, the DEQ spokesman, said of the invoices from DEQ to the companies. "Mitigation can be achieved, as it was in this project, through payments to a public mitigation program (N.C. Division of Mitigation Services)."

An email sent to Governor Roy Cooper's press office seeking comment on the existence of a separate mitigation payment related to the pipeline project went unanswered.

Cooper's office has refused to respond to any request for comment from WBTV for multiple stories over the past two weeks.

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Details about a dedicated environmental mitigation fund are emerging as controversy continues to swirl around a separate $58 million mitigation fund announced by Cooper's office hours after the pipeline permits were approved.

Cooper's office has claimed the Governor's Office would have full control over how the money is used. But Republican lawmakers in the North Carolina General Assembly introduced a bill last week that contained a provision requiring the $58 million fund be used for education in the ten counties impacted by the pipeline. That bill was passed the general assembly earlier this week.

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