North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has joined his Democratic colleagues in opposing a natural gas pipeline that would run through Rockingham and Alamance counties.

Cooper submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday calling the Southgate pipeline unnecessary. He says it would become obsolete almost as soon as it's built, because of a 2021 state law that requires North Carolina utilities reach carbon neutral by 2050.

"Any newly constructed natural gas fueled electricity generation units will be forced to retire before the end of their useful lives, leading to sunk costs that will be charged to North Carolina's ratepayers," Cooper said.

Southgate is an extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would carry natural gas from West Virginia to near the North Carolina state line.

Construction permits have expired, but the company behind Southgate is asking FERC for an extension. Congress approved construction for Mountain Valley in May, but construction has been stayed by a federal circuit court. Cooper cites the court case in his letter.

"The argument that an extension of time for MVP Southgate is merited because permitting for MVP Mainline will be completed in an expeditious manner is clearly erroneous," Cooper wrote.

Cooper joins other Democrats in opposing the project. Congresswomen Kathy Manning and Valerie Foushee cite opposition by Alamance County commissioners and the Rockingham County town of Stoneville about possible pollution of the Mayo, Dan and Haw rivers.

“Our constituents have also shared their concerns about the MVP exercising eminent domain to complete construction of the extension, which would threaten private property and family farms,” the Manning and Foushee said in a joint statement.

A number of Republicans support the pipeline, including Treasurer Dale Folwell. In a letter to FERC, he says the project will help diversify North Carolina's energy mix.

The deadline for public comment has passed. FERC will make a decision on the permit extension in the coming months.

Copyright WUNC 2023

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