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Dominion expects Atlantic Coast gas project to stay on time despite FERC setback

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Dominion expects Atlantic Coast gas project to stay on time despite FERC setback

Atlantic Coast pipeline developers are confident that the 1.5-Bcf/d natural gas project will stay on track, despite the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denying their request for more time for pre-construction work.

FERC on March 28 refused to allow an extension for tree-felling work along the Dominion Energy Inc.-led project's route, citing concerns that the activities would harm migrating birds and endangered or threatened species. Although Dominion said the extension was necessary to complete construction of the project in time for a targeted in-service date in the second half of 2019, project spokesman Aaron Ruby said there is a contingency plan.

"We have a path forward to begin construction this spring and complete the project by the end of 2019," Ruby said, by altering construction plans and pushing some activities to 2019.

As of March 28, crews completed clearing trees along more than 200 miles of the 600-mile project route.

"While that's less than we planned for this year, we will have a productive construction season," Ruby said in a statement released late on March 28.

While Dominion is optimistic, project opponents, including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Sierra Club, hailed FERC's denial as a victory and said the delay could result in a more substantial impact to the project.

"If this decision stands, we are heartened that it would significantly delay the pipeline construction process," said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Sierra Club Campaign Director Kelly Martin agreed with FERC's decision to protect birds and bats that use the trees in the region for nesting and saw hope for a potential setback to the pipeline. "Today's decision is a win for the people and communities in the path of this destructive project," Martin said.

The Atlantic Coast pipeline is a joint venture of Dominion, Duke Energy Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc. and Southern Co.'s Southern Co. Gas, and would run through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. (FERC docket CP15-554, CP15-555)