|Implosion of the former Dominion Energy headquarters, May 20, 2020|
The announcement on Sunday, July 5 by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy that the companies had decided to cancel “the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) due to ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty which threaten the economic viability of the project” was a shock but not a complete surprise. As readers of ABRA Update well know, construction of the ACP was suspended in December 2018 (19-months ago), the project was still without 8 key permits (notwithstanding its successful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on one aspect of its still-missing Forest Service permit, projected project costs for the pipeline had risen to $8 billion dollars and the anticipated date for ACP’s completion and operation had been pushed to early 2022. It is worth noting that the initial proposal for the pipeline, announced in May 2014 by Dominion as the Southeast Reliability Project, was to have cost $4 B. and was to become operational by the end of 2018. This whole episode gives new meaning to the word “reliability.”
There has been voluminous reporting and analysis in the past week on the demise of the ACP, beginning with the Wall Street Journal story posted last Sunday that was sent to ABRA Update readers that afternoon announcing the project’s cancellation. A number of such stories are included below in the In the News section of this week’s ABRA Update. I commend all of them for a fuller picture of what has happened, but I want to specifically flag four of them for the quality of their analysis of what happened and why.
- “Duke Energy, Dominion likely began to consider abandoning Atlantic Coast Pipeline last year” – Charlotte Business Journal, July 9, 2020
- “What sank the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? It wasn’t just environmentalism.” – Virginia Mercury, July 9, 2020
- “How Trump’s energy dominance backfired on an $8B pipeline” – E&E Energywire, July 7, 2020
- “Ordinary citizens become extraordinary” – The Recorder, July 9, 2020
ABRA and its members are most appreciative to those in the media who for six years have diligently covered this story and reported on our points of view about the ACP. In particular, we extend a shoutout to The Recorder newspaper that serves Highland and Bath Counties, Virginia. The Recorder’s reporting and commentary on the evolution of the ACP since the project was first announced in its embryonic stage in May 2014 has been nothing short of extraordinary.
The masthead of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance states that the organization’s mission is:
“Protecting the heritage, resources and economy of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge region.” We organized ABRA to fight the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and that effort has dominated our activities for the duration of our existence. However, we have never lost sight of the broader mission of promoting the integrity of this very special geographical region of the United States. Accordingly, the ABRA Steering Committee, on July 9 agreed to three new initiatives:
- ABRA and its members will closely monitor actions required to be taken to wind down the ACP project, with particular attention to the restoration of the lands that have been disturbed by construction activity. We will be reporting on that progress in future issues of ABRA Update and, when necessary, taking action to assure that the required restoration is done properly.
- ABRA has offered its assistance to those still fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the POWHR (Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights) coalition and many others. We continue to believe that natural gas pipelines are incompatible with the integrity of the mountain regions of West Virginia and Virginia.
- ABRA will be announcing in coming weeks a new program designed to significantly enhance the capabilities of environmental, conservation and citizen groups to analyze impacts of projects in the greater Allegheny-Blue Ridge region to assure that the overall environmental integrity of the region is maintained. The program, named the Conservation Hub, will employ some of the same technological tools that formed the basis of the ABRA Compliance Surveillance Network (CSI) that was developed to monitor ACP construction activities. We are very excited about this new initiative and believe it will be a decided asset for the greater conservation community.
In conclusion, thanks to many are in order for a truly herculean effort. First, there are the hundreds and hundreds of people who have worked tirelessly as part of ABRA member organizations and/or on ABRA committees and task forces for these six years. In particular, the members of the ABRA Board of Directors and the ABRA Steering Committee have made outstanding contributions. The coalition’s accomplishments are primarily due to their leadership.
Finally, enormous thanks to staff colleagues, consultants attorneys and committee chairs who have been the core of our coalition effort: Dan Shaffer, Rick Webb, Greg Buppert and his colleagues at Southern Environmental Law Center, Joe Lovett and his colleagues with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, David Sligh, Ben Cunningham and Andrew Young. They have been and continue to be an incredible team. It has been an honor to work with them.
- Lew Freeman, Executive Director, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance