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Dominion gets green light for limited work in Virginia on Atlantic Coast Pipeline

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Progress cited by operator amid effort to complete 1.5 Bcf/d project

Opponents have been fighting Northeast gas takeaway efforts

Houston — The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday gave Dominion Energy the go-ahead to begin some limited work in Virginia tied to its Atlantic Coast Pipeline natural gas project.

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A spokesman for the operator, Aaron Ruby, described the limited notice to proceed as "progress" as the company seeks to complete the 1.5 Bcf/d project that is among several pieces of new infrastructure that are designed to link Appalachian Basin supplies with the mid-Atlantic region and the Southeast.

Together with EQT Midstream Partners' 2 Bcf/d Mountain Valley Pipeline, Williams' 1.7 Bcf/d Atlantic Sunrise expansion and TransCanada 's 1.3 Bcf/d WB XPress, ACP would continue a trend of pushing more Northeast gas downstream to markets where demand growth is expected over the next five years.

Ruby said that construction on ACP is "moving full steam ahead" in West Virginia and North Carolina, with a remaining approval still pending in Virginia. Dominion continues to target a late 2019 startup. In a letter to the operator, FERC said Dominion could begin non-mechanized tree felling at the ACP Buckingham Compressor Station and Woods Corner Metering and Regulating in Buckingham County, Virginia.

The project, like several of the others in the Northeast, has faced extensive opposition from environmental and conservation groups.

Last month, a federal district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction an eminent domain challenge by opponents that sought to block ACP and MVP. More than 50 landowners with property in the path of the projects had joined with the non-profits Bold Alliance, Bold Education Fund and Friends of Nelson in the complaint.

The litigation targeted the way eminent domain use has evolved in a deregulated gas market to take private property for pipeline development.

In August, Virginia officials opted to leave in place water quality certifications for the two projects, following a lengthy hearing at which opponents voiced their concerns. At the time, analysts said the decision lifted a cloud over the projects that, had it gone the other way, could have caused further delays.

-- Harry Weber, Harry.Weber@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Gail Roberts, newsdesk@spglobal.com