NC East Alliance

Atlantic Coast Pipeline - OpEd

March 31, 2016

Every day, I think about the success of Eastern North Carolina. It’s the first thing that crosses my mind in the morning, and my last thought at night. Sure, it’s my job as I lead the NCEast Alliance, a regional economic development agency responsible for 25% of the state’s landmass and 14% of its population. But as a native North Carolinian, it’s also a calling.

I consider opportunities to drive the poverty level of our citizens below the reported 20%. I worry that one of our biggest revenue generators – travel and tourism – is too dependent on nature and elements we can’t control. I contemplate what stable and diverse industries could be brought to eastern North Carolina, helping our job seekers become more secure.

I deliberate whether we have sufficient resources to support  our education institutions to help our children succeed. And I question if higher education can continue to meet the expectations of our employers.

I wonder how we’ll feed, fuel, and clothe our increasing population, which happens to be growing faster than the U.S. average. Is the infrastructure in place? Do we have the energy resources we will need to support our manufacturing base in the future?

It’s a lot to think about. And, I know I’m not alone in my concern. These are all issues of interest to my board of directors.

Recently, however, some of this load has been lightened. I’m excited about progress that’s being made in our region, especially with the entry of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The pipeline will allow our people and our companies to be less dependent on outside sources for safe, efficient, reliable natural gas. It’ll save our energy consumers more than $130 million per year. It will bring much-needed jobs during construction, and keep hundreds employed through operation. And, our state will receive $6 million in tax revenue from the companies who own and operate the pipeline.

This decreased reliance on others and increased opportunity for economic growth is exciting. Even more so when you consider that half of the counties directly benefiting from the pipeline are in eastern North Carolina.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline means more jobs, cleaner air and lower prices for heating our homes and businesses. It will help spur economic growth by helping us offer more reliable natural gas at a lower cost to companies considering moving here.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will directly – and positively – affect our region’s bottom line. Tax payments, by the owners and operators, will generate more than $3 million dollars annually for Northampton, Nash, Halifax, and Wilson counties. That’s money we can use to improve education, and build the infrastructure we need for future success.

I know there are those who are opposing the pipeline with concerns of safety. I can understand that apprehension. But, after digging in, asking the tough questions and reviewing the facts, my mind was eased. During construction, the pipeline will go through rigorous federal and state testing protocols, inspections, and pressure tests. Once in operation it will be put through annual tests, and monitored 24 hours a day with both air and foot patrols. And, those doing that monitoring will most likely be North Carolinians who’ve been put back to work.

The other concern I’ve heard is about the safety of our environment. North Carolina is known for its natural resources, and those of us living here treasure them. Based upon what I’ve read and learned from conversations with officials, protection of those resources is top-of-mind for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as well. Along the pipeline route, there will be extensive efforts to protect our native species, preserve wetland and water resources, control erosion, and minimize emissions. The pipeline will be underground and, after construction, the land will be restored to its original quality. We will continue to be able to farm, hunt and fish. We, along with our children, will reap the rewards of progress. I know the safest and most efficient way to transport liquid/gaseous energy is through pipelines.

This helps me rest easier at night. This is why I support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. And, why I believe you should too.

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