A proposed natural gas pipeline would disproportionately impact Native Americans in North Carolina, according to Ryan Emanuel, an associate professor at NC State University and a member of the Lumbee Tribe.
Emanuel says the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route cuts through an inordinate amount of tribal land. This puts Native Americans at risk of pollution, land devaluation and destruction of cultural sites.
“Our ancestors are buried all up and down parts of eastern North Carolina, and so these are really sacred places to my people, The Lumbee, and to all the other tribes that are impacted by this project,” he said.
The journal Science published Emanuel's recent letter, which says 13 percent of the people impacted by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are Native Americans, while indigenous people only make up one percent of North Carolina's population.
Emanuel said there are flaws in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Environmental Impact Statement and the document fails to acknowledge that the natural gas pipeline would disproportionately affect Native Americans.
Regulators heard tribes' concerns in public comment sessions, but Emanuel said they didn't really address the concerns.
“It's sort of treating the tribes like any other community group or business association, and not like the indigenous people who have a much greater stake in what happens to these landscapes because they can't simply relocate without losing some of their culture and their identity,” said Emanuel.
Environmental groups plan to protest the pipeline in Raleigh on July 26. Federal regulators say that, if done right, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project could have "less-than-significant" environmental impacts.
Protesters held up the Dakota Access Pipeline in South Dakota for 10 months last year, before the Trump administration granted approval to the controversial project.
“If these lands are impacted in some way by the construction of the pipeline or the operation of the pipeline, it impacts our identity as tribal citizens,” Emanuel said.