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.The EPA celebrated via their pet newspaper, the Bay Journal: Atlantic Coast Pipeline scrapped amid economic, legal setbacks
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.
““The fossil fuel era is rapidly drawing to a close in Virginia and nationwide thanks to the ferocious six-year opposition to this destructive pipeline,”said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.I wish there were a way to deny energy to the people who want to deny us energy.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, another courtroom foe, called the decision a victory against a “risky and unnecessary” project. The group led the successful fight to overturn a federal air permit for a compressor station associated with the pipeline in the predominately Black community of Union Hill in Virginia.
In that case, the Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the state had failed to adequately consider the environmental justice implications of constructing the compressor.
“This is a great day for the people of Union Hill, for public lands, for landowners in the path, and for all North Carolinians and Virginians who deserve a clean energy future and are no longer on the hook to pay for this $8 billion pipeline,” said Greg Buppert, an SELC senior attorney.