Atlantic Coast Pipeline Update – January 2020

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Update – January 2020

by Dick Brooks, CRPA Board President

The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is still officially in a work stoppage. Some stabilization activities have been approved. Notably, in West Virginia, ACP has attempted with mixed success to prevent slips (aka landslides) where construction has already taken place. Extreme measures that were not included in the Environmental Impact Statement such as wood pilings driven into the hillside have been tried with only modest success. This is especially troubling as the proposed construction has yet to reach the route’s steepest slopes here in Bath and Highland counties.

This work slowdown has had significant impact on each of the partners who plan to build and operate the project. For Duke Energy it has meant securing additional funding in the form of a stock issue totaling $2.5 billion. The day this was announced, Duke common shares tumbled 2.5 percent. And, they have told their shareholders that the new in-service date is 2022. Dominion is sticking to their latest forecasted in-service date of 2021, but the investment community is becoming somewhat skeptical. Duke’s announcement came after the third-quarter investor call for Dominion, so we’ll see how they respond in the new year.

Meantime, the US Supreme Court has decided to hear the US Forest Service vs Cowpasture River Preservation Association, et al., case on February 24, 2020. Briefs are due December 19, and a decision is expected to be handed down in June or July of next year. Dominion has increased public relations efforts across the board, and the White House and Attorney General Barr have all sided with Dominion. No matter how this case is decided, multiple other permits are still overturned or in play. Here’s the latest list:

  • The FERC Certificate. This was to be heard in September, but was deferred pending the Forest Service case.
  • The Fish and Wildlife Permit. Additional endangered species are pending and new sightings of endangered species have been documented on the route.
  • The National Park Service Permit. This has been pulled by the Service; it is for permission to cross the Skyline Drive.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers Permit. This has been pulled by the Engineers because of different state level water crossing rules.
  • The Buckingham County Compressor Station Permit. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in October, and a decision is expected early in 2020.

So, the fight continues and we’re still in it. According to FERC, approval for the important Fish and Wildlife permit (which had been vacated twice by the courts) must now come from them, meaning FERC, prior to going back to Fish and Wildlife. They don’t expect to have all the new information processed until early next year. So it is believed that no tree cutting or other activities can begin until fall of 2020.