The developers of the long-delayed, $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline announced the cancellation of the multi-state natural gas project Sunday, 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 that “recent developments have created an unacceptable layer of uncertainty and anticipated delays” for the 600-mile (965-kilometer) 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.”
In a video message Sunday, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good explained the decision. “There’s too much uncertainty around legal challenges and final permits that made it very difficult for us to continue. The uncertainty around cost and schedule became too great and it was imprudent to keep investing in the project,” she 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 leveling some ridgetops as the pipe, 42 inches 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 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 $4.5 billion to $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.