by Charles Young
Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project has faced numerous delays and setbacks stemming from legal challenges brought by environmental groups. As developers fight for the future of the project in court, thousands of West Virginia workers have been laid off or have experienced underemployment.
Community members, business owners, pipeline workers and other ACP stakeholders gathered at a Dominion Energy facility near Jane Lew on Tuesday afternoon to share stories about how the ongoing shutdown of major construction work on the pipeline has negatively impacted individuals throughout the North Central West Virginia region.
The event was organized by the Lewis County Economic Development Authority and featured brief talks from Dwaine Doss, owner of DOSS Enterprises; Steve Sherrard of J.F. Allen Co.; Rob Richard of the West Virginia Labor District Council; Del. Bill Anderson, R-Wood; and Bob Orndorff of Dominion.
Attendees were asked to add their digital signatures to a petition supporting an end to further delays of the ACP.
Cindy Whetsell, Lewis County EDA executive director, said while she usually prefers to operate behind the scenes away from the public eye, the importance of the ACP prompted her to volunteer to lead a public show of support for the project.
“Today is the day for those of us who would rather work backstage to come to the forefront with our leaders and let our voices be heard,” she said. “We as West Virginians deserve the best. We deserve to have the Atlantic Coast Pipeline built and operational.”
“Lewis County will be home to 19.7 miles of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Marks Compressor Station. This is estimated to bring $3.7 million into our county in taxes — taxes we should have realized next year. But instead, idle worksites delay the opportunities for our communities,” Whetsell said.
Doss, whose Jane Lew-based company has provided support services to multiple sectors of the oil and gas industry since 1995, said delays to the ACP are standing between local workers and their ability to provide for their families.
“This pipeline — it’s essential that we get it moving so we can work people and feed families, put food on the table, buy shoes for our children, make car payments and move forward in a life that we all want to have,” he said. “We need everything we can to move forward with these pipelines. There are several of them that are going on in our community and in our state right now, and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a major one that we need and we must have.”
Agnes Queen, president of the Lewis County Commission, said the oil and gas industry is ingrained in the fabric of life in Lewis County.
“In our county, most of the people who work are in the oil and gas industry,” she said. “It’s commonplace around here where individuals have to leave town in order to get employment, and they have to leave their families. So it would be great if they could be back here working in their own communities and keeping their families together.”
All who live and work in the North Central West Virginia region, regardless of how they feel about the ACP, are encouraged to share their opinions with local leaders and lawmakers, Queen said.
“I think those who are interested in being a voice for the pipeline — or even against the pipeline — they need to come forward and talk to their senators, their delegates and their officials and let them know where they stand,” she said. “I know there are people for and there are people against, and each person should have their voice heard.”
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a $7 billion project led by Dominion Energy and a consortium of energy partners that will cross more than 600 miles between Harrison County and Greensville County, Virginia, to transport natural gas produced in West Virginia to customers in Virginia and North Carolina once it’s completed.
Dominion is in the process of appealing a decision by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals not to reconsider a ruling that denied a permit allowing the pipeline’s route to go through two national forests and across the Appalachian Trail, according to Karl Neddenien, ACP spokesman.
“The next step is that we will file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. That will take place within 90 days,” he said. “That’s not the only course, but it’s the primary path we’re following. We’re also looking at administrative and legislative options too, but the Supreme Court is the favorable path right now.”
However, there are no assurances the court will hear the case, Neddenien said.
“We don’t know exactly if the court will accept that case or, if so, when it would be heard,” he said.
A panel of three judges in December ruled the U.S. Forest Service lacked the authority to allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross national forests and the Appalachian Trail.
The ruling came as the result of legal challenges from several environmental advocacy groups, including the Sierra Club, the Shenandoah Valley Network and others.
The pipeline project is also facing a separate legal battle stemming from a December ruling by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that stayed an authorization previously issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The 4th Circuit issued its decision overturning the U.S. Forest Service’s permit Dec. 13, and Dominion voluntarily halted construction activities shortly thereafter.
Dominion’s appeal of the 4th Circuit’s decision on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorization was originally scheduled to be heard in March but was delayed, Neddenien said.
The 4th Circuit is expected to hear the case during the first week of May, Neddenien said.
In Dominion’s fourth-quarter and full-year 2018 earnings report, the company announced the ACP would not be in service until early 2021, rather than the prior estimate of mid-2020.
“The company currently expects that construction could recommence on the full route during the third quarter of 2019, with partial in-service in late 2020 and full in-service in early 2021,” the earnings report stated.
“Based on that schedule, the company now expects the project cost to be between $7 (billion) and $7.5 billion, excluding financing costs. Similarly, the company expects the Supply Header project to enter commercial service in late 2020 at a project cost of $650 (million) to $700 million,” the report stated.
In the earnings report, Thomas Farrell, Dominion chairman, president and CEO, said the company remains fully committed to the ACP project.
“We remain highly confident in the successful and timely resolution of all outstanding permit issues, as well as the ultimate completion of the entire project,” Farrell said. “We are actively pursuing multiple paths to resolve all outstanding permit issues, including judicial, legislative and administrative avenues.”
Read the full article and more in WV News.