The State Journal
Matt Harvey, MANAGING EDITOR
CLARKSBURG — Like long-awaited Corridor H, the completion dates for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline are visible in the future, tantalizingly close, some might say, yet are proving elusive.
But maybe not for much longer.
The 600-mile, $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, and the 303-mile, $5.3-$5.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline, seem poised to break out in 2020, bringing a huge boost to the economy for West Virginia, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast at a time when the pandemic has plenty of boats, large and small, bailing water.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is being developed by Dominion Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, Duke Energy and Southern Company Gas. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a joint venture among EQM Midstream Partners, NextEra Capital Holdings, Con Edison Transmission, WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project starts in southwestern Harrison County and will transport gas to Greensville County, Virginia, providing natural gas drawn from the ground in the Mountain State to Virginians and North Carolinians.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline begins in Wetzel County, relatively close to the border with Harrison, Marion and Doddridge counties, and runs to Pittsylvania County in Virginia. It will target customers in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline has faced legal and regulatory hurdles, yet is nearing conclusion.
While work over the winter was focused on erosion and sediment controls after a Fourth Circuit ruling, the pipeline had reached around 90 percent completion by the end of the year. That included putting the finishing touches on three compressor stations and three certificated interconnects, as well as completing around 265 miles of the 303 miles worth of pipeline, and fully restoring about half of the right of way.
“We have encountered unforeseen development challenges; however, we continue to make progress towards ultimate completion. While the temporary setbacks have caused schedule delays and cost overages, completion of the MVP project is critical to serving the growing demand for domestic natural gas in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of the United States; and we appreciate the oversight of the various state and federal agencies that have helped guide our construction activities,” said Diana Charletta, president and chief operating officer of EQM Midstream Partners.
Matt Lamb is Dominion Energy’s vice president of eastern pipeline operations. He sees a bright future for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is nestled amid the busy Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas producing regions.
“West Virginia and the shale gas region have been blessed with an abundant natural resource, along with skilled laborers standing ready to bring this reliable energy source to those in need,” Lamb said.
“In addition to creating local jobs, this new infrastructure will support manufacturing, home heating, and important U.S. military bases on the East Coast while moving our country toward a clean energy future,” Lamb said.
“Natural gas is an important part of that future, serving as an abundant and affordable energy source, plus a dependable energy partner to renewables,” Lamb said.
One big issue for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: What the courts have said — and ultimately, what the U.S. Supreme Court will say — about its pipeline crossing more than two football fields below the Appalachian Trail.
If the Supreme Court rules the crossing is U.S. Forest Service land, the project is likely to quickly move toward conclusion. The Forest Service already had granted a permit for pipeline construction. But if the justices decide the National Park Service is the entity in charge, then the pipeline crossing would need congressional approval, which could bog the project down.
Attorneys for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the federal government have argued the Forest Service is the appropriate permitting agency; they’ve cited decades of precedent, in addition to more than 50 other pipelines already cross under the Appalachian Trail. Eighteen state attorneys general, including West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, as well as more than 60 members of Congress, 17 forestry associations and dozens of industry and labor groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs siding with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
“We’re making good progress and expect to have a decision from the Supreme Court of the United States by the end of June,” said Samantha Norris, senior communications specialist for Dominion Energy. “A favorable decision will help ACP resume construction this summer, to be completed by the end of 2021 and in-service in early 2022.”
Before work was stopped in West Virginia, more than 3,000 individuals were working directly for the pipeline, Norris said. And when they’re on the job and making money, they’re apt to spend it at restaurants, hotels and material and equipment suppliers.
The number of employees for the project is down to 260 now, with the court decision pending and work on hold. But with a favorable ruling, that number could increase thirty-fold, to about 8,000 employees over the entire project, Norris said.
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