15 cited after sit-in at Cooper’s office over Atlantic Coast Pipeline

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Fifteen people face charges after they staged a sit-in at the governor’s office in the State Administration Building in downtown Raleigh.

The group wanted Governor Roy Cooper to know they want the state to rescind the permit allowing the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Dozens of demonstrators arrived in the morning. The 15 who were charged with second-degree trespassing remained in the building past closing hours.

RELATED: NC issues key water certification for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

“All of the counties that are affected, (we want the governor to) stand for us in eastern North Carolina,” said Tony Burnett, Northampton County NAACP President, who was at the demonstration.

Tom Clark told CBS North Carolina the pipeline would go right near his Cumberland County home.

“They can’t guarantee to me that something couldn’t go wrong with this,” said Clark. “That’s the reason that I’m fighting this.”

Opponents were disappointed to learn the state authorized a permit last week clearing the way for the construction of the pipeline, which will go through eight North Carolina counties along the I-95 corridor.

“We’re concerned about the climate,” said Greg Yost with the Alliance to Protect Our People and the Places We Live. “We’re concerned about the health and safety hazards in the eight impacted counties that are going to be forced to accept the pipeline.” Yost was among the 15 people who were charged by State Capitol Police.

Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said there are very strict environmental controls.

“The process is very proven across the nation and it’s something that we believe can be done very safely and provide very strong economic benefits for communities in eastern North Carolina,” said Brooks.

Supporters, like Johnston County Businessman Durwood Stephenson, say those benefits are needed in eastern North Carolina. Stephenson is the director of the US 70 Corridor Commission.

“Tobacco, textiles and furniture has kind of left us and we haven’t filled the void and one of the reasons we haven’t filled the void is because we don’t have the infrastructure,” said Stephenson, referring to the natural gas that would come with the pipeline.

Yost had a direct message for the governor.

“Governor Cooper, we are very sorry you took the stand that you did on the pipeline,” he said. “We had hoped for much better. But you stuck a stick into a hornet’s nest and this issue is not going to go away.”

Cooper’s office issued a response to the demonstration Friday, saying, “We appreciate that North Carolinians are making their voices heard on this issue and will continue working toward a full renewable energy future. As we move away from reliance on coal-fired power plants we will still need to rely on other fuels like natural gas and the Department of Environmental Quality is taking rigorous steps to insist on clean water and good air quality along the path of the construction.”

Crews started Friday clearing some trees along the path of the pipeline in North Carolina.

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