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Pipelines Inch Forward, Despite Questions of Need, Climate Impact

Federal regulators are moving forward with several huge gas pipeline projects, despite criticism that natural gas is fast becoming an outmoded power source. (Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition)
Federal regulators are moving forward with several huge gas pipeline projects, despite criticism that natural gas is fast becoming an outmoded power source. (Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition)
August 15, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Federal regulators are moving forward with huge pipeline projects across West Virginia and Virginia, although opponents say the projects are risking overbuilding and locking in a fuel that causes climate change.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC confirmed it won't require a collective environmental impact statement on all the lines designed to ship Marcellus and Utica gas to East Coast markets.

Two of them – the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) – could end up costing ratepayers $9 billion.

And Rick Webb, coordinator of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, says FERC is looking at the need for and total impact of each line separately.

"As if the others don't even exist,” he points out. “And analysis that has been done, including by FERC's own staff, indicates that we will very shortly have an excess in pipeline capacity – yet FERC doesn't want to address that."

FERC is moving ahead with timelines for the ACP, MVP and others that could see construction starting in about a year. The energy companies behind the pipelines say they have contracts in hand to ship the gas, proving the need.

The industry argues there is a bottleneck getting gas out of the Marcellus and Utica.

According to the independent Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, there is a bottleneck, but only westward and to the Gulf Coast.

Webb says it should be up to FERC to make that call.

"Is there in fact, a bottleneck?” he questions. “These companies are saying that, in terms of public relations, but nobody has an opportunity to actually look at that in an objective way. And we're saying this is what FERC should be doing."

Critics also contend it's foolish to build billions of dollars worth of fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the world is rapidly moving away from energy that causes climate change.

They argue the hundreds of miles of 42-inch gas pipelines could have the impact of locking consumers into using a fuel that creates carbon pollution.


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV