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Atlantic Coast opponents cite Transco description of 'duplicative' pipeline

Opponents of the Dominion Energy Inc.-led 1.5-Bcf/d Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline held up a description of the project as redundant and unnecessary in an attempt to convince federal regulators to reconsider authorization. That description came from another pipeline company.

The opponents, 18 conservation and environmental organizations, submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission comments that Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC made to state regulators. Transco insisted its pipeline system, which includes the 1.7-Bcf/d Atlantic Sunrise expansion due to enter service at the end of August, can meet customer demands in South Carolina in the region that would be served by the Atlantic Coast project. The groups said the comments support their petition against the project.

Transco had submitted the comments to the Public Service Commission of South Carolina as part of a request to intervene in a proposed merger between Dominion and SCANA Corp. "[It] is obvious Dominion intends to install duplicative infrastructure and pipeline to serve the ratepayers of South Carolina at great expense to the ratepayers of South Carolina," Transco said. "Factually, Transco has the infrastructure and pipeline in place to serve the Southeast, including South Carolina, for many years."

Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said Aug. 10 that the public need for the Atlantic Coast project was not in doubt. "Public utilities have been saying for a long time that the pipelines serving our region are stretched too thin and are not keeping up with consumer demand, especially during the winter months." The project would help remove constraints on Virginia and North Carolina pipelines and offer cheap Appalachian gas to the market, Ruby said.

The Atlantic Coast project, a joint venture of Dominion, Duke Energy Corp. and Southern Co., will run through parts of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. FERC approved the project in October 2017, but construction on a portion of the project was halted after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit vacated a federal permit. (FERC dockets CP15-554, CP15-555)

The environmental groups said the Transco comments should convince FERC to reconsider the customer agreements used to support the Atlantic Coast project and check if there is a genuine demand for the 600-mile pipeline and supporting facilities. The groups, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and others, said the commission should consider if customer demands could be met by the EQT Corp.-led Mountain Valley pipeline project.

"It is precisely because Dominion has the incentive to build new pipeline infrastructure regardless of demand that petitioners urged the commission to look behind precedent agreements to determine whether there is actual demand, not manufactured demand, for the project," the opponents said in their Aug. 9 filing.

In November 2017, the groups asked FERC for a rehearing, objecting to environmental reviews of the Atlantic Coast pipeline and the Mountain Valley pipeline. The commission has not issued a decision on the request.