By Leah Nestor
The Exponent Telegram
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Now that federal regulators have approved the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, Dominion Energy officials expect construction to begin by the end of the year.
After a three-year review, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently approved a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Supply Header Project.
“This has been the most thorough and exhaustive environmental review that’s ever been done for a project of this kind,” said Aaron Ruby, media relations manager for Dominion Energy.
“For more than three years, more than a dozen state and federal agencies have been thoroughly scrutinizing every aspect of the project to ensure that it is built safely and in a way that protects the environment,” he said.
Included in the commission’s approval are 73 conditions that Dominion Energy must comply with. That number of conditions is typical for a project of this size and complexity, Ruby said.
“It demonstrates that the agencies have done a very diligent, painstaking job of fully analyzing the project in making sure all the necessary protections are in place for public safety and the environment, and that’s where the conditions are really key,” he said.
In planning the pipeline, a total of 6,000 miles were reviewed as potential routes.
Also, more than 150,000 pages of reports and documents were submitted to regulatory agencies, and more than 75,000 public comments were submitted to those agencies, Ruby said.
Now, Dominion Energy is waiting on other states’ approvals to begin construction, Ruby said.
In West Virginia, a water quality permit from the Department of Environmental Protection is still needed. Virginia’s and North Carolina’s Departments of Environmental Quality must also approve similar permits before construction can begin.
“Once we receive the other state and federal permits that we need, FERC will then issue what’s called a Notice to Proceed,” Ruby said.
That, he said, will be the final permission to begin construction.
The EnergySure Coalition — a group of businesses, organizations and individuals across North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia — released a statement on FERC’s approval of the project, calling the action a positive step toward ensuring an energy source for the region.
The 600-mile pipeline — some of which will run through Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties — is estimated to cost between $5 billion and $5.5 billion.
The cost will be shared among three companies.
Dominion Energy will own 48 percent of the pipeline; Duke Energy will own 47 percent; and Southern Company Gas will own 5 percent.
Dominion Energy will build and operate the pipeline.
“We’re excited to hear this step has been taken, and we’re looking forward to the employment opportunities that will result — as well as the business opportunities and the overall economic impact of the project,” said Kathy Wagner, president of the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce.
Wagner said the construction phase and the long-term maintenance of the project will result in increased employment.
However, Harrison County Commissioner Ron Watson is concerned that the state will not have enough qualified workers for the project.
“The bigger problem is trying to get qualified individuals that are drug-free. It seems like that is a holdup on a lot of people being employed is that they can’t pass the drug test,” he said.
Noting the pipeline planners’ efforts to protect land and wildlife along its route, Wagner said she’s confident the project will be a “win for everyone.”
“It’s an opportunity for not only Harrison County, but all of West Virginia to prosper both in jobs and economic impact — the tax dollars — it’s just a win-win for everybody,” she said.
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