Loudoun environmentalists are celebrating the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project and are looking to parlay that energy into a fight against another planned pipeline.
Environmental advocates visited the Douglass Community Center in Leesburg on Friday to sign a banner celebrating the victory and to renew their commitment to help others in southwest Virginia halt construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which they feel threatens Virginia’s water, air, public health and safety.
Hosting the banner signing, and now joining forces to combat the Mountain Valley Pipeline, were members of Food & Water Action, 350 Loudoun, Green New Deal Virginia, Concern for the New Generation, Virginia Pipeline Resisters, Free Nelson, Hands Across Our Land, Protect Our Water and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.
Dominion Energy and Duke Energy on July 5 announced they were abandoning plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in response to “ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty which threaten the economic viability of the project,” according to a joint statement from the companies.
The plan to build the 42-inch-diameter pipeline was announced in 2014 and came in response to a lack of energy supply to millions of families, businesses, schools and national defense installations acrossNorth CarolinaandVirginia and a demand for natural gas, according to the companies’ July 5 statement. It was proposed to extend 600 miles southeast from Harrison County, WV, under the Appalachian Trail, farther southeast through Virginia toward Emporia, then south into North Carolina to Robeson County.
The companies behind both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline have been using eminent domain to obtain rights of way from property owners, authority granted them in 1947 when Congress passed an amendment to the Natural Gas Act. Still, many landowners have fought, and continue to fight, back.
In the case of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, those fights led to many lawsuits. Although Dominion and Duke were victorious on June 15 when United States Supreme Court ruled they would be allowed to pass the pipeline under the Appalachian Trail, the companies less than a month later announced that “recent developments have created an unacceptable layer of uncertainty and anticipated delays” and the project is now “too uncertain to justify investing more shareholder capital.”
In their announcement, Dominion and Duke stated that those legal challenges increased project costs by $3.5 billion from original estimates, up from $4.5 billion to $8 billion.
But work on the neighboring Mountain Valley Pipeline continues, as a joint venture between EQM Midstream Partners, NextEra Capital Holdings, Con Edison Transmission, WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream. That pipeline is proposed to run 303 miles from Wetzel County, WV, southeast to Pittsylvania County, VA. Natalie Pien, a Loudoun-based environmentalist who hosted the banner signing event on Friday, said there has never been a pipeline installed in an area with such steep slopes.
According to a project schedule, the Mountain Valley Pipeline is slated to be in service by the first quarter of 2021, with 90 percent of work already complete. To impede that progress, Pien said environmentalists are pushing for Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring to issue stop work orders on the project. Environmentalists have also been blocking the project via a nearly two-year-long tree sit about 14 miles southwest of Roanoke.
The banner celebrating the cancelation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and encouraging pushback on the Mountain Valley Pipeline will make its way to Navy Elementary School in Fairfax tomorrow, followed by yet-to-be-announced dates in three more Virginia localities and six more in North Carolina.