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Atlantic Coast Pipeline project canceled

After nearly six years of court hearings, fierce opposition from communities and billions of dollars spent, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy have officially thrown in the towel in their fight for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

The news came late Sunday afternoon, July 5, in the form of a press release from Dominion Energy saying the project had officially been canceled.

In the release, ACP officials stated the difficult decision to no longer pursue construction on the project became necessary given the legal uncertainties the ACP project was facing, including a recent ruling by a U.S. District Court in Montana on a widely used U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Permit and a subsequent decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals not to lift the district court’s injunction.

The same day the cancellation was announced, Dominion published a separate release stating the company had executed a definitive agreement to sell “substantially all of its gas transmission and storage segment assets to an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in a transaction valued at $9.7 billion, including the assumption of $5.7 billion of existing indebtedness.”

A vital permit for advancement of the pipeline was vacated by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals back in early January. The permit, originally awarded by the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board (VAPCB), granted permission for construction of a compressor station in Buckingham County’s Union Hill community to support the transmission of natural gas through the pipeline.

The ACP saw a short-lived victory June 15 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the U.S. Forest Service had the authority to grant the pipeline the ability to cross underneath the Appalachian Trail, removing one of the largest obstacles of the pipeline’s long-delayed construction.

The pipeline was projected to span 600 miles, crossing counties including Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland.

Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion Energy chairman, president and chief executive officer, and Lynn J. Good, Duke Energy chair, president and chief executive officer, said the project’s cancellation reflected “increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States.”

Opponents of the project were thrilled their efforts finally stopped what they considered to be a potential disaster for the environment.

“This pipeline was a boondoggle from the moment it was announced by Dominion CEO Tom Farrell and then-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in September 2014,” Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said in a statement Sunday afternoon. “The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is proud to have been one of the first statewide environment groups to take up this cause, to organize our supporters, and to protest with everything from letters to the editor to civil disobedience.”

Kathie Mosley of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League said it feels great to have slayed the corporate giant.

“Dominion chose to ignore the Union Hill community, but we stood up and never stopped fighting,” Mosley, vice president and member of the Union Hill chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Concern for the New Generation, said. “They tried to divide our community, but we never ever gave in. It feels good today to know we slayed the giant.”

Local officials were not so thrilled with the news of the pipeline’s cancellation.

Buckingham County District 4 Supervisor Thomas Jordan Miles III said Monday, July 6, that though he criticized Dominion Energy’s level of transparency at the outset of constructing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and compressor station in Buckingham County, he was disappointed in the firm’s decision to cancel the project, which he said would have resulted in domestically-used natural gas up and down the East Coast.

“The project would have also resulted in a decreased dependence on fossil fuels and a stronger energy infrastructure for businesses and homes,” Miles said. “The decision is going to result in a loss of millions of dollars in tax revenue for Buckingham that would have offset increased expenditures expected by the county and our taxpayers. The proposed natural gas tap off of U.S. Route 15 south of Sprouse’s Corner that the Board of Supervisors and county negotiated with Dominion and Kyanite would have truly been a game changer for the economy of Buckingham and this region, and I’m sorry to see that disappear, and with that goes lots of anticipated jobs for those in the region and county.”

Prince Edward County was listed as a supporter of the ACP project on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s website. Monday, Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett said the county was disappointed with the news.

“This project would have generated considerable annual and short-term tax revenues for Prince Edward County with only a minimum impact,” he said. “Most importantly, the pipeline would have provided natural gas to the region from the facility in Buckingham County. That distribution system would have had the potential to expand into Prince Edward County over time.”