By Kevin Ridder
Similar hurdles remain for the Mountain Valley Pipeline
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is no more.
On July 5, lead developers Dominion Energy and Duke Energy sounded the death knell for the 600-mile fracked gas behemoth, citing ongoing delays, increasing costs and legal uncertainty. This is a monumental victory for the North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia communities in the path of the pipeline that spent the better part of a decade fighting against it.
Following legal challenges from community and environmental groups, construction has been halted on the largely unbuilt pipeline since late 2018, and developers lacked eight permits at the time the project was canceled. Although Duke and Dominion won a Supreme Court case in June that would have allowed them to burrow under the Appalachian Trail, this was not enough to overcome the variety of obstacles the monopoly utilities faced.
A diverse array of groups opposed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, including Appalachian Voices, the nonprofit environmental organization that produces this publication. If built, the pipeline would have disproportionately impacted low-income communities, communities of color, and Native American communities. But residents rallied together in a massive grassroots movement against the ACP over the last six years, holding marches, attending public meetings, monitoring construction and more. They formed grassroots groups like the Friends of Buckingham, which fought the construction of a massive gas compressor station in the historic Black community of Union Hill, Virginia, and secured a major legal win earlier this year.
“I feel that all the hard work that all of us have done was finally for good,” said Ella Rose with Friends of Buckingham in a statement. “I feel like I have my life back. I can now sleep better without the worries that threatened my life for so long.”
In a joint statement on the pipeline’s cancellation, civil rights leader Bishop William Barber II and former Vice President Al Gore wrote, “Power companies have historically chosen to build in low income neighborhoods because property values are low, and they count on these communities not having the means to fight back. Today’s victory against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is testament to the power that exists in frontline communities across our nation. The courageous leadership of impacted community members who refused to bow in the face of overwhelming odds is an inspiration to all Americans.”
In addition to canceling the ACP, Dominion announced the sale of $9.7 billion in gas transmission and storage assets to Berkshire Hathaway Energy on July 5. The sale does not does not include the Atlantic Coast Pipeline or easements related to it.
On July 10, Dominion asked federal regulators for an additional two years to complete their supply header project, a 30-inch-diameter pipeline which would have stretched about 38 miles from West Virginia’s fracking fields to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. But the justification behind finishing the project is unclear, according to Thomas Hadwin, a former utility executive. Hadwin now sits on the steering committee of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, a coalition of 51 organizations including Appalachian Voices that opposed the ACP.
“Without the ACP, the supply header project is sort of a bridge to nowhere, because there’s no pipeline connected to it,” says Hadwin. “Since that was the source of the ACP, it would have the potential to supply the volume of gas that was going to supply the ACP.”