The developers of the long-delayed, USD 8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline announced the cancellation of the multi-state natural gas project, citing uncertainties about costs, permitting and litigation.
Despite a victory last month at the United States Supreme Court over a critical permit, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy said in a news release Sunday that “recent developments have created an unacceptable layer of uncertainty and anticipated delays” for the 600-mile (965-kilometre) project designed to cross West Virginia and Virginia into North Carolina.
The companies said a recent pair of court rulings that have thrown into question a permitting program used around the nation to approve oil and gas pipelines and other utility work through wetlands and streams presented “new and serious challenges.”
“This new information and litigation risk, among other continuing execution risks, make the project too uncertain to justify investing more shareholder capital,” the news release said.
The massive infrastructure project, announced with much fanfare in 2014, had drawn fierce opposition from many landowners, activists and environmental advocates, who said it would damage pristine landscapes and harm wildlife.
Getting the project built would have involved 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.
Opponents also questioned whether there was sufficient need for the gas it would carry and said it would further encourage the use of a fossil fuel at a time when climate change makes a shift to renewable energy imperative.
Legal challenges brought by environmental groups prompted the dismissal or suspension of numerous permits and led to an extended delay in construction. The project was years behind schedule and the anticipated cost had ballooned from the original estimate of USD 4.5 billion to USD 5 billion.
Reaction poured in Sunday from the project’s opponents, who lauded the demise of the project. “If anyone still had questions about whether or not the era of fracked gas was over, this should answer them.
Today is a historic victory for clean water, the climate, public health, and our communities,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.
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 that the greater availability of natural gas would help draw heavy manufacturing companies.
“Unfortunately, today’s announcement detrimentally impacts the Commonwealth’s access to affordable, reliable energy,” the Virginia Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.
“It also demonstrates the significant regulatory burdens businesses must deal with in order to operate.”
US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement the project was killed by the “well-funded, obstructionist environmental lobby.”
“The Trump Administration wants to bring the benefits of reliable and affordable energy of all kinds to all Americans,” Brouillette said.
“Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the activists who killed this project.”
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