Energy companies abandon long-delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline
- 06 July 2020
The two energy companies behind the controversial 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Sunday abandoned their six-year bid to build it, saying the project has become too costly and the regulatory environment too uncertain to justify further investment, APA-Economics reports citing The Washington Post.
The natural-gas pipeline would have tunneled under the Appalachian Trail on its way from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina, building an energy infrastructure proponents said would attract economic development to the region.
The abrupt abandonment sparked jubilation among environmental and community groups who had fought the pipeline all along its path, which included some of the most scenic and rugged terrain in Virginia. Property rights advocates in the Appalachians joined with an ashram in central Virginia and black Baptists from a rural county to make opposing the pipeline a high-profile political and social justice issue.
“The courageous leadership of impacted community members who refused to bow in the face of overwhelming odds is an inspiration to all Americans,” former vice president Al Gore and the Rev. William Barber, a civil rights leader, said Sunday in a joint statement. They had visited Virginia together to shed light on the pipeline’s impact on rural African American communities.
Virginia-based Dominion Energy and North Carolina-based Duke Energy spent $3.4 billion on the project, fighting regulatory battles that went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled favorably for the companies last month.
But company officials said in a statement that other recent federal court rulings linked to the Keystone XL pipeline have heightened the litigation risk, extended the project’s timeline and further ballooned the cost of the project, which had risen from an estimated $5 billion in 2014 to $8 billion today. When announced, the energy companies had hoped to have the pipeline operational by 2018.
“This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States,” Dominion chief executive Thomas F. Farrell II and Duke Energy chief executive Lynn J. Good said in a joint statement. “Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.”
The decision to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline came the same day Dominion announced it would sell its other natural gas pipelines and storage assets to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy for $10 billion, focusing exclusively on state-regulated natural gas utility markets and some renewable energy projects. The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Dominion is arguably the most powerful corporation in Virginia, and its commitment to the pipeline made the company a political target in the past several years after a new generation of Democrats won control of the state legislature. Faced with leaders in the General Assembly who pledged to weaken Dominion’s influence in Richmond, the utility cooperated this year on legislation that requires it to phase out carbon-based energy by 2050.