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Proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline disproportionately affects tribal communities in North Carolina

While the Dakota Access Pipeline continues to generate headlines, a natural gas pipeline under consideration along the eastern seaboard is also coming under scrutiny, in part for its disproportionate impact on Native communities in North Carolina.

First proposed in 2014, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would carry natural gas fracked from Marcellus Shale in central West Virginia to end points in Virginia and the southern border of North Carolina. The project is supported by those who believe it will aid struggling rural economies, but environmental organizations and some landowners argue that it will pose a threat to residents and the region’s ecosystem.

In addition, opponents note that the pipeline, which crosses the territories of four tribes, will disproportionately affect Native American communities in North Carolina.

Ryan Emanuel, an associate professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University, writing in the July 21 edition of Science, argued that the “nearly 30,000 Native Americans who live within 1.6 km of the proposed pipeline make up 13.2% of the impacted population in North Carolina,” even though they make up 1.2 % of the state’s population.

Emanuel argued that a draft environmental impact statement released last December by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission failed to acknowledge the large Native population along the proposed 600-mile route, “leading to false conclusions about the project’s impacts.” He urged federal regulators to consult with tribes before making a final decision, which is expected later this year.