Groups take legal action against FERC on Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Evaluations show utilities like Dominion Energy have grossly overestimated future demand for natural gas as part of making their case to justify construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

SELC, in conjunction with a coalition of affected land owners and conservation groups, today filed a request for rehearing urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a massive interstate gas pipeline that would transport fracked gas into Virginia and North Carolina. Mounting evidence shows that the pipeline is not needed to meet customer demand, and would harm landowners along its path and consumers throughout the region.

FERC issued an order granting approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on October 13. In a highly unusual dissent, Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur critiqued the agency for failing to look beyond the agreements put forth by the utilities involved and to consider whether need for the pipeline had been established. LaFleur’s dissent highlights the failure of FERC to seriously consider new evidence showing there is not enough demand for natural gas to justify building the pipeline. Most of the gas from the pipeline would go to fuel gas-fired power plants, but the demand for electricity has slowed in Virginia and North Carolina since the project was first proposed in 2014.

"As Commissioner LaFleur acknowledged, FERC has not considered whether there is any real need for this risky and costly pipeline,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “Today’s filing is the next step in our effort to challenge FERC’s rubberstamp process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—one that has failed to even consider the evidence that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not needed and has brushed aside serious concerns about the project’s harm to the environment.”

Worse still, nearly all of the costs associated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s $5.5 billion price tag will be passed on to customers – even if the pipeline demand never materializes.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline wouldn’t just bring gas to North Carolina, it would also bring the risk of water pollution in our rivers and streams, toxic emissions in the air we breathe, and harm to communities across North Carolina—all while hitting utility customers in the pocketbook for a pipeline that is not even needed,” said SELC Senior Attorney Gudrun Thompson. “FERC needs to go back, take a hard look at the evidence, and reject this pipeline.”

The project would cut off ridge tops, plunge down steep and unstable mountainsides, damage sensitive streams, and disrupt pristine core forests. Combustion of the gas carried by the pipeline would cause significant climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.

Landowners will be among the hardest hit if the project is approved, as Dominion and Duke will be granted eminent domain authority to acquire permanent easements on private property. These easements will cut a permanent 75-foot path across farmland and forests, and landowners close to the pipeline’s paths may struggle to sell their property or receive a mortgage. Proximity to the pipeline also exposes families to potential fires and explosions.

A new website, InThePath.org, provides a platform for landowners and others impacted by the pipeline to share their stories of pushing back on this unneeded and unwanted pipeline.

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