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Cancellation of Atlantic Coast Pipeline Called Victory for Environmentalists

Environmental groups protest the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Staunton, Va., in 2018. (Wikimedia Commons)
Environmental groups protest the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Staunton, Va., in 2018. (Wikimedia Commons)
July 7, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Climate-change activists celebrated the landmark decision to abandon the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline project Sunday, calling it a surprising victory for environmentalists who fought the pipeline for years.

Backers of the project, Dominion Energy and its partner Duke Energy, canceled it over the weekend, ending a six-year effort to build the natural-gas pipeline from West Virginia through Virginia into eastern North Carolina.

The Supreme Court had just ruled that the pipeline could progress across the Appalachian Trail, according to Jim Kotcon, political chair with the Sierra Club's West Virginia chapter.

Despite this, he said he thinks Dominion and Duke finally realized the project was too risky and unnecessary.

"We have been saying for a number of years that climate change is a real issue, that we need to be phasing out the use of fossil fuels," Kotcon said. "So, we feel gratified that that reality has finally sunk in with Dominion."

West Virginia's Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said in a statement that he was disappointed with the cancellation. He noted the infrastructure project would have created good-paying construction and manufacturing jobs for West Virginians.

In June, a circuit court denied a state air-pollution control permit for the project to build a natural-gas compressor station in Buckingham County, Virginia. The county's African-American town of Union Hill raised national concern over the project's impact on the community.

Kotcon said that rejection, and other rulings, were a blow to the plans. He pointed out that under the Environmental Protection Agency's environmental-justice laws, the pipeline route and construction were supposed to avoid burdening minority and low-income communities.

"There were alternatives that would have avoided a disproportionate impact to minority communities," he said. "Dominion, to a very large extent, tried to ignore that and build their compressor in the midst of a minority community."

He added the pipeline project was more than $3 billion over budget and more than three years behind schedule, and still needed federal permits to complete construction.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, West Virginia Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV