RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced on Sunday that the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline initiative is canceled due to delays, legal permitting issues and costs associated with the project.
“When I heard that, I was shocked,” said attorney Brian Kunze who represents more than 500 families along the pipeline route.
The ACP project was released to the public in 2014 under the plan that it would transport natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia and Hampton Roads, as well as North Carolina, along 600 miles of pipeline. The project goal was to facilitate with lack of energy supply and delivery for millions across North Carolina and Virginia.
Dominion Energy of Virginia and Duke Energy of North Carolina are two of four utilities involved in the project that was expected to create thousands of construction jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for local communities across West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.
“This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States,” the utilities said.
While the project recently won the vote 7-2 in the United States Supreme Court solidifying the decision to move forward, Dominion Energy released a statement saying that “recent developments have created an unacceptable layer of uncertainty and anticipated delays for ACP.”
“Specifically, the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Montana overturning long-standing federal permit authority for waterbody and wetland crossings (Nationwide Permit 12), followed by a Ninth Circuit ruling on May 28 indicating an appeal is not likely to be successful,” said officials in a statement released.
Dominion has made it clear it wants to emphasize regulated electric and natural gas utilities, and comply with clean air and net-zero carbon emissions.
The pipeline has been a controversial conversation topic for multiple reasons including legal challenges of the permits along with litigation risks. The risks could potentially create uncertainty with investigating, overall cost, and scheduling.
Kunze said he is amazed where he and his clients stand today.
“They’ve spent billions of dollars and had no project. They had millions of dollars taking people’s properties, and did not have a project to take it for. This is an example of them moving too fast and taking property without proper approvals,” he said.
The legal challenges and lawsuits associated with the permits are presenting issues and as a result, “the project cost has increased to $8 billion from the original estimate of $4.5 to $5 billion. In addition, the most recent public estimate of commercial in-service in early 2022 represents a nearly three-and-a-half-year delay with uncertainty remaining,” according to the statement.
“We regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. For almost six years we have worked diligently and invested billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver the much-needed infrastructure to our customers and communities,” Dominion Energy and Duke Energy officials wrote in a joint statement Sunday.
Both of the companies plan to continue aggressively pursuing methods of energy efficiency and sustainability.
You could tell where the pipeline would have run past the entrance to Wintergreen Resort by the hundreds of cut-down trees.
“I was sitting at home, and I heard a fellow resident of Wintergreen call me ‘Hey, they are not going to do the pipeline. We won.’ And I felt great,” said Bob Wilson, who owns a home at the top of the Wintergreen Resort.
“They were going to build this pipeline where it was [the] only way in and out to the Wintergreen Resort. If there had been a disaster it would’ve been a disaster of monumental proportion.”
Wilson feared natural gas line explosions. It cost him peace of mind.
“The property values went down tremendously — if you could find a buyer. Most people realize when that pipeline goes in, it’s going to be a hazardous thing. You could have an accident at any time.”
Kunze says the decision impacts tens of thousands of people through three states.
“As a private property owner up in Wintergreen, they are no longer going to have the impact of this pipeline on their private property, and that is for all the people across Virginia who would’ve been impacted by this pipeline,” Kunze said.
Wilson likes a tough permitting process.
“I think the permitting process and the environmental studies are a good thing in that regard. I think the eminent domain process is a bad thing, and I believe eminent domain is a legal term for legalized theft,” Wilson said.
It is clear the environmental permit process and the uncertainty of it weighed heavily in the decision to end the project.
“I think the courts are showing there wasn’t as much review and oversight of these type of things, and now I think, going forward, this shows they have to comply with all the requirements. They have to make sure they have those permits in place before moving ahead and forcing people to give up their property.”
As the cancellation of the pipeline was announced, Dominion Energy officials then announced the sale of the company’s gas pipeline operations to Investor Warren Buffett for $9.7 billion.
An email to Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway was not returned asking the future of any natural gas pipeline. Wilson added,
“It is amazing they backed off. Mr. Buffett is a genius businessman, and he’s supposedly very ethical and very moral. I just hope he doesn’t try to do the pipeline, but if he does, and I don’t think he will, we’re going to fight just as hard against him as we did against the others.”
This isn’t the first time Wilson won an eminent domain case. In 2014, a court ruled Norfolk Redevelopment Housing Authority could not take his business, Central Radio, just to hand the land over to Old Dominion University.
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