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Atlantic Coast gas pipeline named on Trump priority infrastructure list

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Atlantic Coast gas pipeline named on Trump priority infrastructure list

The Atlantic Coast pipeline project, designed by developer Dominion Resources Inc. to connect the Marcellus Shale to cities in the Southeast, is one of the Trump administration's 50 "priority" infrastructure projects, according to a list obtained by the McClatchy news service.

The pipeline is No. 20 on the document, created from lists of projects submitted by governors, and is the only natural gas project that made the list. President Donald Trump's list estimates the value of the top projects at $137.5 billion, with 50% of that funding to come from taxpayers. The news of Trump's plans came on the heels of a $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan proposed by Democratic leaders Jan. 24.

The 1.5-Bcf/d, 600-mile Atlantic Coast pipeline is backed by Dominion, Duke Energy Corp., Southern Co. Gas and Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc.

Dominion was reluctant to react to reports of the project's presence on a list it had not verified, but Media Relations Manager Aaron Ruby said the company welcomes some of Trump's early moves by executive action.

"We are very encouraged by the Trump administration's recognition of the urgent national need to build critically important energy infrastructure projects," Ruby said. "The administration has taken several important first steps in recent days to clear the path for these projects, and we are eager to work with the president to ensure that projects like the Atlantic Coast pipeline are approved and built in a timely manner."

Ruby noted that the pipeline is privately funded.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which has been leading public opposition to Atlantic Coast pipeline, had no immediate reaction to requests for comment. The group has demonstrated along the pipeline's route and said there is no need for the natural gas in the markets that would be served, that FERC merely rubber-stamped Atlantic Coast's plan. The public comment period on the pipeline's environmental impact statement remains open until April 6. (FERC docket CP15-554)

Other energy-related projects that made the list include several electric transmission projects designed to move wind power from Wyoming and the Great Plains to load centers on the coasts, as well as refurbishing federal dams in various locations. The bulk of the list was made up of roads and bridges, as well as rail links, including a high-speed train between Dallas and Houston. The No. 1 project is to repair and replace the rail lines and tunnels connecting Newark and New York City.

One project that was cut from the list late in the process was Alaska LNG Project LLC, a proposed LNG terminal with three liquefaction trains. Alaska LNG is now being pushed by the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., a state agency, after ConocoPhillips Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp. dropped the project, citing a global glut of LNG.

Trump has also signed executive actions designed to speed up the environmental review process for "high priority" infrastructure projects. It is not clear what impact that would have on the Atlantic Coast pipeline, which received a draft environmental impact statement in December and is on track to go into service in 2019.

"It is the policy of the executive branch to streamline and expedite, in a manner consistent with law, environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects, especially projects that are a high priority for the nation, such as improving the U.S. electric grid and telecommunications systems and repairing and upgrading critical port facilities, airports, pipelines, bridges, and highways," Trump's order read.

Projects will be named high priority, either at the request of a governor or a Cabinet member, to the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The White House has 30 days to act on the request. If a project is certified as high-priority, the White House will coordinate with federal agencies to see that projects are granted expedited environmental reviews, the order said.

"President Trump signed four executive memos yesterday, spurring the stalled Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines back to life," Height Securities analyst Katie Bays told her clients Jan. 25. "Trump also directed agencies reviewing infrastructure projects to find ways to speed up their reviews and tasked pipelines to source materials from within the U.S. Trump's early action seeks to contrast himself with President Obama, who was criticized by many in the energy industry for unlawfully delaying major pipeline projects."