Regulators get plan for undoing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
Atlantic Pipeline will take 2 years to sustainably undo.
The developers of the now-cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline have laid out plans for how they want to go about unwinding the work that was done for the multistate natural gas project and restoring disturbed land.
In a filing with federal regulators made public on Jan. 5, the pipeline company proposed an approximately two-year timeline for efforts across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, where progress on the project ranged from uninitiated to essentially complete.
The plan outlines where the company wants to clean up felled trees and where it plans to leave them behind, and it proposes abandoning the approximately 31 miles (50 kilometres) of pipe that was installed in place.
“We spent the last several months working really closely with landowners and agencies to develop the most responsible approach for closing out the project,” said Aaron Ruby, an employee of lead developer Dominion Energy who has served as a spokesman for the joint project with Duke Energy. “And ultimately our primary goal is to complete the project as efficiently as possible, and with minimal environmental disturbance.”
Plans for the 600-mile (965-kilometre) Atlantic Coast Pipeline were first announced with great fanfare in 2014, but it was running years behind schedule. Legal challenges brought by environmental groups prompted the dismissal or suspension of numerous permits and led to delays in construction and ballooning costs that brought the estimated price tag to $8 billion. Building the project was to involve tree removal and blasting and levelling some ridgetops as the pipe, 42 inches (1 metre) in diameter for much of its path, crossed mountains, hundreds of water bodies and other sensitive terrain and burrowed underneath the Appalachian Trail.
The pipeline partners said July 5 in a surprise announcement that the project was being cancelled. In October, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked the pipeline to provide specific details about its planned restoration activities.
The pipeline drew fierce opposition from many landowners, activists and environmental advocates, who said it would damage pristine landscapes and harm wildlife. Opponents also questioned whether there was sufficient need for the gas it would carry.
The project’s supporters said the pipeline would create jobs, help aid the transition away from coal and lower energy costs for consumers. Economic development officials in distressed parts of the three states it would run through had hoped the greater availability of natural gas would help lure heavy manufacturing companies.
Included in the filing was a list of the various environmental permits that would be required to complete the restoration work, which the company says it expects to complete by the end of 2022.