ACP approval sought

Published 10:28 am Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Firms leading the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project have asked the members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — the body that could give the project the green light — to “issue an order approving the ACP certificate in September so that the initial construction activities and tree clearing can begin in November and conclude in early 2018 as described in the Final (Environmental Impact Statement).”

The Thursday letter is two-pages long, which cites the need for additional pipeline capacity in Virginia and North Carolina, and is signed by officials with Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Company Gas.

Aaron Ruby

“As you know the FERC has two new commissioners and a backlog of projects awaiting approval, so we thought it was an appropriate time to reaffirm the urgent public need for the project and the importance of a timely decision by FERC,” said Dominion Energy spokesman Aaron Ruby.

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“As partners responsible for executing and delivering expanded supplies of natural gas through the proposed 600-mile ACP, we respectfully request that the (FERC) issue an order granting the Certificate for the project at the earliest possible time, consistent with the rules and regulations of the Commission,” the three said in the letter.

“This letter simply reaffirms the urgent public need for the project and the importance of a timely decision by FERC to meet the needs of our public utility customers,” Ruby said. “No one who truly understands the process can say it’s being rushed. The project has been exhaustively reviewed by more than a dozen state and federal agencies for almost three years now, and with extensive public review and participation. We’ve simply asked for the FERC to make a timely decision based on its own favorable environmental report and along the same timeframe as the work being done by other agencies.”

FERC staff said in July the proposed project — one that would result a 42-inch natural gas pipeline spanning Buckingham and parts of Cumberland and Prince Edward along with a 53,783-horsepower gas-fired compressor station along Route 56 in Buckingham — “would result in some adverse effects” and most of the anticipated impacts “would be reduced to less-than-significant levels” through implementing recommendations by FERC staff.

The FERC’s release of its voluminous Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in July notes that ACP and Dominion Energy Transmission Inc. (DETI) “would minimize impacts on the natural and human environments during construction and operation of their facilities by implementing the numerous measures described in their respective construction and restoration plans.”

The issuance of the FEIS by staff with FERC served as a major step in the process that Dominion — the energy giant leading the project — is undertaking to construct the pipeline, which, if approved, would begin in West Virginia, span Virginia and end in North Carolina.

The project, including the proposed compressor station that would be built on property between Shelton Store and Union Hill roads along Route 56 in Buckingham County, has been hotly contested in Buckingham.

“We are pleased by the favorable findings in the EIS and have every confidence that the staff-recommended conditions can be incorporated into our construction framework,” officials wrote in the Thursday letter. “Further, activities by other federal agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service for permits and related authorizations remain on schedule. Similarly, state actions for section 401 Water Quality Certifications and other state requirements are proceeding and align with our anticipated construction schedule to begin tree clearing in November 2017.”

More than 70 people spoke during a contentious Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) public hearing in Jarman Hall at Longwood University in mid-August held to receive comments on draft water quality certifications “designed to protect water quality” along the route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

During the hearing, about 23 people spoke in favor of the ACP and approving the draft water quality certifications while 51 spoke against the pipeline and in support of denying the certifications.

The 5-0-2 decision by supervisors in Buckingham regarding a special use permit for the compressor station came after 76 people spoke during a public hearing on the permit application. Seven of the 76 spoke in favor of the permit while the remainder that spoke opposed the measure.

According to the Thursday letter, the project will bring more than 17,000 new jobs in the construction industry, $377 million in annual energy cost savings for customers and $28 million in new, annual tax revenues for local governments along the route.

The project “has gained an expansive record of support from state and local governments, skilled craft labor organizations and leading business groups,” officials said in the letter.

“We recognize the commission has a number of cases pending consideration with the restoration of quorum,” the letter reads. “The commission’s timely assurance of the order for the ACP project, however, is essential to meeting our contract obligations, ensuring customers realize the energy savings, providing manufacturing access to needed supplies of natural gas and offering enhances energy security and reliability to the region.”