February 2021, Vol. 248, No. 2


Two-Year Plan Proposed to Undo Work on Atlantic Coast Pipeline


The developers of the now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline have laid out plans for how they want to go about unwinding the work that was done for the multistate natural gas project and restoring disturbed land.

In a filing with federal regulators, the company proposed a two-year timeline for efforts across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, where progress on the project ranged from uninitiated to essentially complete. 

The plan outlines where the company wants to clean up felled trees and where it plans to leave them behind, and it proposes abandoning the 31 miles (50 km) of pipe that was installed in place. 

“We spent the last several months working really closely with landowners and agencies to develop the most responsible approach for closing out the project,” said Aaron Ruby, lead developer of Dominion Energy. “And ultimately our primary goal is to complete the project as efficiently as possible, and with minimal environmental disturbance.” 

Ruby also confirmed for the first time that the company does not intend to voluntarily release the easement agreements it secured on landowners’ properties. 

In most cases, the legal agreements were obtained through negotiations with landowners, who were paid and who the company has previously said will keep their compensation. But in other cases, in which sometimes vociferously opposed landowners fought the project, the easements were obtained through eminent domain proceedings. 

Asked if there are any plans to sell the easement agreements to a third party such as another pipeline or infrastructure project, Ruby said, “We have no plans to do so at this time.” 

Ruby also said the company has no plans to voluntarily compensate landowners who are still in court fighting over the legal fees and other costs they incurred related to the project. On Dec. 18, a federal judge in North Carolina awarded one group of defendant landowners just over $20,000 in fees and costs. 

Plans for the 600-mile (965-kilometer) Atlantic Coast Pipeline were first announced with great fanfare in 2014, but it was running years behind schedule. Legal challenges brought by environmental groups prompted the dismissal or suspension of numerous permits and led to delays in construction and ballooning costs that brought the estimated price tag to $8 billion. 

Building the project was to involve tree removal and blasting and leveling some ridgetops as the pipe, 42 inches (1 meter) in diameter for much of its path, crossed mountains, hundreds of water bodies and other sensitive terrain and burrowed underneath the Appalachian Trail.

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