Atlantic Coast Pipeline Officially No More

Image: Steve Helber/AP

Yesterday, Dominion Energy and its partner, Duke Energy, announced they were ending a 600-mile natural gas project that would have cost at least $8 billion to complete. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote, Dominion and Duke canceled the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the face of mounting regulatory uncertainty caused by a federal court ruling in Montana that overturned the nationwide federal water quality permit the project relied upon to cross rivers, creeks and other waterbodies.

This came despite a recent  Supreme Court ruling that the Forest Service has the authority to permit the pipeline to be constructed underneath the Appalachian Trail despite the objection of the agency that manages it.  (Read our writeup of that decision)

Why This Matters: As Friends of the Earth explained, this fossil fuel pipeline would have generated 67 million tons of climate pollution each year and disproportionately harmed Native communities — on top of destroying wildlife. Despite the Supreme Court win, local activists and communities were tireless in stopping this pipeline. Oil and gas pipelines in the United States often trample on Indigenous rights, dismiss treaties, and leak even under the best circumstances. Communities should be able to refuse them in their backyards.

As USA Today explained, the proposed pipeline would have crossed under the Appalachian Trail and carried natural gas from West Virginia into North Carolina and Virginia, had been touted by supporters as a boost to economic development. But those jobs aren’t long term ones for the communities that need them most.

In a statement about the decision, Dominion CEO Tom Farrell and Duke CEO Lynn Good said that,

“This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.”  

However, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune responded by explaining that pipelines aren’t needed for energy security and affordability:

Stopping the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a historic victory for the health and well-being of communities along the route of the project, and adds to the mountain of evidence that we do not require fracked gas to meet our energy needs. Now, rather than investing in the further destruction of our clean water and communities, we can continue to grow the booming clean energy economy creating jobs and protecting public health.”

Frontline Communities: As the Nicholas School of Environment at Duke University explained in a blog post, the ACP disproportionately affects minority populations.

  • The counties crossed by the proposed ACP route collectively have a significantly higher percentage minority population than the rest of the counties in North Carolina.
  • For example, the pipeline threatens sacred sites for Virginia’s Monacan Tribe and North Carolina’s Tuscarora, Waccamaw, and Lumbee peoples.
  • The terminus for the ACP is in Robeson County, NC, which is home to the densest population of indigenous people on the East Coast. 30,000 of them live within one mile of the proposed route in North Carolina.

Additionally, Duke explained there are many potential dangers of a pipeline project such as the ACP for both humans and the environment.

  • These impacts can include visual impacts, intensive water usage during construction, noise impacts from compressor stations, air quality impacts, land use restrictions, and risk of injury from accidents or explosions.
  • There has been a significant increase in the number of incidents occurring along pipelines built since 2010 in the US. This is problematic especially since it is unclear whether local governments and emergency responders have the tools, training, and personnel to respond to these kinds of incidents.

All sentiments that were echoed by former Vice President Al Gore and Reverend William Barber:

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