Environmental activists celebrated in February as Dominion Energy declared that completion of the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been delayed until at least 2021. The proposed pipeline, which as planned would span 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina, has met from strong opposition from local communities and environmental organizations.
Among the reasons for delays on construction is that Dominion Energy has become mired in legal battles over permitting for the pipeline to cross National Forest land and the Appalachian Trail. At the local level, community activists are concerned that the pipeline will contribute to air pollution in the region and climate change. In addition, opponents of the pipeline point out that a catastrophic spill is a possible consequence of the pipeline and that there are few contingency plans for the region to recover from a spill.
While the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is already well underway, the delay has several important ramifications. First, the additional time to the pipeline’s completion gives organized opposition groups more time to stir up debate and opposition to the pipeline within the local communities it crosses. Second, the economic benefits of the pipeline are becoming increasingly questionable as the prices of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, continue to fall. In addition, the cost of the pipeline has increased from the original estimate of $6 billion to more than $7.5 billion.
Even as debate continues, Dominion Energy says that construction could restart on the pipeline later in 2019.
As a side note, while we mention Dominion Energy specifically as the owner developer, in fact the pipeline project is a joint effort with Dominion, Duke Energy, Southern Company Gas and Piedmont Natural Gas.