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In face of litigation, Dominion reiterates Atlantic Coast Pipeline timeline, cost estimate

Houston — Company hopeful it will prevail in Supreme Court appeal

Recapitalization of Cove Point LNG project announced

Despite ongoing federal environmental litigation, Dominion Energy expects to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on its previously released timeline, with full project construction resuming by the end of 2020, and with full commissioning of the project in early 2022, company officials said Friday.

In the company's third-quarter 2019 earnings conference call, Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Farrell also said that the company does not anticipate that the court cases would add to the estimated $7.3 billion to $7.8 billion cost of the 600-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d natural gas pipeline project.

Intended to move Appalachian gas to mid-Atlantic markets, the project faces several legal challenges from environmental groups, including one involving the US Fish and Wildlife Service environmental permits that is currently pending in the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, as well as a case involving the US Forest Service over the pipeline's proposed crossing of the Appalachian Trail. In a sign that further legal challenges are possible, environmental litigants have recently warned FWS not to rush out a new version of Endangered Species Act authorizations struck by the 4th Circuit.

But earlier this month, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals filed by the company and the US Justice Department of Appalachian Trail case. On the call, Farrell said he is confident that the company will prevail in its Supreme Court appeal, and that outcome is assumed in his reiteration of the project timeline.

CUSTOMER COST NEGOTIATIONS

Farrell added that Dominion is in continued negotiations with the project's downstream customers "regarding the equitable resolution of project cost increases," and expects to reach an agreement in principle with the customers by the end of this year.

CFO and Treasurer James Chapman said Dominion has reached an agreement with a Brookfield affiliate to recapitalize costs of the company's Cove Point LNG export terminal in Maryland. The agreement, expected to close later this year, highlights "the intrinsic value created through Dominion's five-year development efforts with an implied enterprise value of nearly $8.25 billion compared to a construction cost at the time of liquefaction completion of just over $4 million," Chapman said.

Dominion will use 100% of the proceeds of the recapitalization to retire debt, he said.

Q3 EARNING OF $975 MILLION

In its Q3 2019 financial results, Dominion reported earnings of $975 million ($1.17 per share) compared with net income of $854 million ($1.30 per share) in Q3 2018. Operating earnings for the quarter were $967 million ($1.18 per share), compared with operating earnings of $758 million ($1.15 per share) for the same period in 2018.

For Q4 2019, the company expects operating earnings in the range of $1.10 to $1.25 per share, compared with Q4 2018 operating earnings of 89 cents per share.

-- Jim Magill, jim.magill@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Christopher Newkumet, newsdesk@spglobal.com