by Scott Bigelow, Staff Writer
LUMBERTON, N.C. — With construction halted for a year, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has a date with the U.S. Supreme Court in February that may unlock the project to bring natural gas from the shale belt of West Virginia and Pennsylvania to North Carolina.
“Yes, we are optimistic for a favorable Supreme Court ruling,” Bruce McKay, senior policy director for Dominion Energy told Lumberton Rotarians on Tuesday. “The pipeline is going 750 feet under the Appalachian Trail and will join the 56 pipelines that already cross the trail.”
Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas partnered to build the pipeline beginning in 2014. The $8 billion project originally was projected to cost $6 billion and was slated to be completed and terminate near Pembroke by 2018.
The snag came when the U.S. Forest Service issued a permit and a lower court said the environmental study was incomplete and permitting was the jurisdiction of the Park Service, which requires congressional approval.
McKay, who is the Washington lobbyist for the ACP, was in friendly company at the Rotary luncheon. He thanked supporters, including the Robeson County Board of Commissioners; former county economic development Director Greg Cummings; James Gore, past president of the Committee of 100; and local businessman Bo Biggs.
“It’s important that people stand up and be heard,” McKay said of the local support. “This county has been very supportive.”
McKay recited facts about the pipeline and its benefits. It covers 600 miles and runs largely along Interstate 95. Its 42-inch pipe would carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, with the capacity to carry 2 billion.
North Carolina would receive 70% of the gas and 80% of the total supply would be used for the generation of electricity as former coal-fired plants convert to natural gas. The remainder would heat homes and be used by industry.
“The impact on the U.S. economy of natural gas is phenomenal,” McKay said. “North Carolina depends on one pipeline today, Transco. You don’t want to be dependent on one pipeline.”
Much of the resistance to the pipeline comes from environmental groups that oppose fossil fuels. It is a national debate, and the ACP is the biggest pending case, McKay said.
“The transition to renewable energy will take time, several decades,” McKay said.
Dominion, Duke and Southern are investing in renewable energy. Dominion is investing $250 million into a project to turn methane from hog waste into natural gas.
In partnership with Smithfield Foods on the $500 million project, several of the test farms are in North Carolina.
“We’ve looked at the long-term energy needs of the future, and our goal is to keep the light on,” McKay said.
Read more in The Robesonian.