Environmentalists still oppose Atlantic Coast Pipeline despite changes to its route

Natural gas pipeline being built
Source: WikiCommons, author: Ohikulkija

The four companies behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have said that the project will be delivered within forecast cost and on time, in late 2018. This is despite altering the pipeline route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.

The 600-mile pipeline – owned by Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources of Atlanta – is set to carry natural gas from shale oil fields in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to power plants in Virginia and eastern North Carolina.

In response to concerns, the route of the pipeline has been moved away from sensitive habitats, including national forests in Virginia and West Virginia. There have also been smaller route changes in North Carolina, including Cumberland and Johnston Counties, and in Virginia. Altogether the alterations have added about 36 miles, bringing the total to 600, but officials say that won’t affect the cost.

Tom Williams, spokesman for Duke Energy, said that shale gas is a cheaper and cleaner fuel for Duke’s growing number of gas-fired plants, which are replacing those that burn coal.

“In essence, there’s been a shale revolution, where there’s been lots of very low-cost gas fields that have opened up in the West Virginia, Pennsylvania region. Also across Ohio, other regions, New York. This is a way to access that gas, and bring it to eastern North Carolina,” Williams said.

Despite changes to the pipeline route, the project still faces opposition from a number of environmental groups, who are concerned about ecological disruption along the pipeline route. The also argue that the pipeline will carry shale gas – produced using the controversial fracking technique which they say pollutes air and water and causes other environmental damage.

Pipeline officials expect to get their FERC permit in early 2017, and begin construction a year from now. Gas could begin flowing in late 2018.

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