News

Action Alert: Say 'No!' to Moriah Energy Center permit

ACTION ALERT, Action Alerts, Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Stormwater Runoff, Water Quality

Posted on July 10th, 2024

Write your email to DAQ here!

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is seeking input on the Moriah Energy Center’s air quality permit.

“The reason we’re weighing in on this is because Dominion Energy has somehow circumvented the regulatory system, and the only permit NCDEQ is requiring the company to get for this facility is an air quality permit, so it’s essentially our only opportunity to engage,” said Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop.

Dominion Energy’s liquified natural gas facility in Person County has caused controversy from its start, when Person County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve rezoning for its construction before a large and very vocal NOMEC (No Moriah Energy Center) crowd in December of 2023, ignoring requests to have impact studies done before giving the greenlight to the project. (Read more here)

Since, Dominion has clearcut 70 acres of land in its pre-construction phase, resulting in sediment pollution of creeks running off the property and through neighbors’ land, which has been confirmed by NCDEQ.

Runoff from the Moriah Energy Center site in Childers Creek.

At an open house held by Dominion Energy in May, questions about ongoing sediment pollution and other concerns were met with few answers. (Read more here)

Sound Rivers has teamed up with a coalition of organizations and local organizers living around the proposed project area to air a list of concerns about the facility through the Division of Air Quality’s permitting process, which includes a public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2024, at Vance-Granville Community College, Civic Center Auditorium (200 Community College Road, Henderson, NC 27536) and a window, ending Aug. 2, to submit written comments to DAQ.

“We are encouraging the DAQ to deny the permit and require more independent analysis be done to determine potential impacts from this facility,” Samantha said. “We’re also encouraging everyone to attend the meeting and send or call in their comments to the Division of Air Quality.”

More information about the Moriah Energy Center and key air quality messages, compiled by the coalition, can be found by clicking on the dropdown sections below.

Send your comments to Division of Air Quality with Sound Rivers’ Action Alert

Our pre-formatted template allows you to easily send your comments opposing the permit to the DAQ. You can send the draft email as is or add your own comments and/or key air quality messages below. Write your email here!

The Division of Air Quality is also accepting comment via email, phone and mail. Comments on the project can be submitted by email to DAQ.publiccomments@deq.nc.gov with the subject line “Moriah-Energy.23A”; mailed to NCDEQ Division of Air Quality, 1628 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-1628; or by leaving a voicemail at 919-707-8726. Public comments will be accepted until Aug. 2.

The Moriah Energy Center is a planned liquid natural gas storage facility in Person County owned and operated by Dominion Energy North Carolina. The facility is part of a large natural gas buildout in Person County, and is one of several new natural gas storage projects planned across the United States. The facility would initially store 25 million gallons of LNG and two liquefaction units, each capable of producing 187,500 gallons each of LNG per day in an otherwise rural, wooded area. While many storage facilities keep natural gas underground, the MEC would use a less-common method of liquifying the gas and holding it in aboveground tanks. The site sits in close proximity to homes and a number waterbodies that are home to threatened aquatic species.

The liquefaction plant would be powered by gas combustion, which produces air pollution regulated by the Clean Air Act. Therefore, Dominion is required to secure a permit from the North Carolina Division of Air Quality in order to move forward with its plans.

Community members in Person County have taken a strong stance against the MEC, and need your help to prevent this fossil-fuel project from threatening the health and safety of the community.

  • Natural Gas will not keep the lights on. Dominion has regularly promoted the idea that this facility will increase reliability of the energy grid during periods of extreme cold weather. This has no basis in reality. Natural gas routinely fails during winter storms, at rates higher than renewable energy sources.
  • This facility will not benefit Person County. Only 7.6% of Person County residents use natural gas to heat their homes, so only a small minority of the county could benefit from this facility. 
  • The MEC would create significant security and safety concerns for the community and the surrounding region. A similar LNG facility exploded in Washington State in 2014, leading to evacuation of the nearby community and over $70 million in damage. Dominion refuses to use common-sense safety features, like the use of leak detection and repair (LDAR) and doubled-wall tanks. When asked about safety concerns, Dominion has routinely said to take their word that there will be no accidents.
  • Proximity to Camp Butner — The proposed MEC is only six miles from Camp Butner, making it a potential target.
  • Risk Management Plan — Dominion has argued that they should not be required to create a Risk Management Plan (RMP). They justify this by arguing that they are not a stationary source and that DOT regulations supersede the need for an RMP. We question this logic, and the effect of it is that the community is left with no information about what Dominion’s plan is in the case of a spill, explosion or fire at the facility. 
  • These safety issues are especially concerning in such a rural community. The area surrounding MEC has no cell service and relies on limited internet service for communication. Community members have already experienced having to wait 20-40 minutes as trucks block two-lane roads around the facility, raising concerns about access in and out of the community during an accident.
  • Trucking emissions and safety concerns should be considered. It has become clear that Dominion plans to use substantial numbers of trucks to transport material to and from the site, including trucking 16 million gallons of water to pressure test their tanks (estimated 1,770 trucks), trucking of concrete during construction (1,000 trucks), and trucking LNG during operations (200 trucks per year, averaging four trucks per week). The sheer number of potential trucks is staggering and will create significant air pollution and safety concerns on the small rural roads.
  • Reliance on trucking LNG — Dominion has stated in their air permit application and to residents that they plan to truck LNG from the facility to the end users. This creates another safety concern, as large tanker trucks navigate rural backroads. In 2023, a truck transporting LNG exploded, killing the driver and highlighting an insufficient regulatory framework. 
  • This LNG storage facility will introduce significant new air emissions: According to Dominion’s minor source air permit application to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the proposed Moriah Energy Center could emit 65,579 tons of greenhouse gasses each year. In addition, annual potential emissions include 35 tons of nitrogen oxide, 95 tons of carbon monoxide, 52.4 tons of volatile organic compounds, four tons of hazardous air pollutants and another four tons of fine particulate matter. 
  • Hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from the MEC pose significant health risk to the surrounding community. Dominion’s air modeling shows one-hour concentrations for acrolein and formaldehyde much higher than the inhalation reference concentrations for those pollutants. Additionally, their modeled formaldehyde concentrations are 77% of the AAL.
    • We suspect the actual concentrations of these hazardous air pollutants will be much higher. The majority of formaldehyde comes from secondary formation not included in Dominion’s modeling.
    • Additionally, researchers are increasingly finding that modeled concentration underestimate ambient measurements. Nationwide where we have monitors for comparisons, looking at the median of the distributions across monitors and years, acrolein measurements are 26X greater than model estimates and formaldehyde measurements are 2X greater than modeled. In NC specifically, where there are only rural sites with enough data, the measured formaldehyde concentrations are 1.4 to 1.8 times higher than modeled.
    • Thermal inversions, which are common in winter when Dominion anticipates much of its activity would further increase concentrations in many areas of the county.

  • Community has no data on air quality, so has to rely on Dominion’s calculated emissions, which are likely significantly underestimated. There is no state monitoring for the pollutants of concern nearby, and Dominion has not agreed to funding independent air monitoring to understand true concentration levels.
  • This plant would be a major polluter — Refining fracked gas would require the filtering out of hazardous impurities such as mercury, hydrogen sulfide and benzene. If the system is over-pressurized, excess gas will be vented and ignited, producing heat and light pollution.  
  • The plant would require more pollution through the transport of gas. While transportation of LNG at the Moriah Energy Center is expected to be via an existing underground system, 
  • Dominion acknowledges it may also rely on trucking transportation. Both methods increase air pollution and the risk of environmental impacts during the transportation process.  
  • This proposal poses major risks to human health and safety — The presence of multiple potential explosive liquids at LNG facilities pose a threat to the surrounding area. The Department of Transportation reports 14 major accidents at U.S. liquefaction facilities in the past 10 years, the largest occurring at a plant in Plymouth, Washington, when an explosion injured several people and caused nearly $50 million in damages to the plant and surrounding community. In an area of Person County that is serviced by volunteer firefighters, we worry that leaks, fires, explosions or other potentially disastrous events cannot be adequately addressed in a timely manner.  
  • Dominion is not a good neighbor — Dominion has already demonstrated an inability to follow state and federal law by polluting waterways in its initial construction process. If Dominion is unable to prevent illegal pollution of nearby waterways in its early stages, how can we trust that it will not be a significant pollution source if the facility is constructed?
  • Dominion’s siting of this facility constitutes an environmental justice issue. This facility is being built to create supposed reliability for surrounding, more affluent counties like Durham, Orange and Wake. Dominion chose to site it on the edge of Person County, where they knew they could operate cheaply and with less regulatory oversight. Person County is disproportionately vulnerable to climate impacts, relative to Durham, Orange and Wake counties. We believe this constitutes an environmental and climate justice issue.
  • The Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) shows that Person County is over three times as vulnerable to climate impacts relative to Durham County, over five times more vulnerable than Orange County and over six times more vulnerable than Wake County. The CVI is a forward-facing tool, looking at how communities will be harmed by climate change in the future unless we change how we act now. MEC is taking us further down this road — where nowhere in North Carolina will be both affordable and enjoyable to live, where we have destroyed our farms and our farmers and where we have made North Carolinians sick.

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