The West Virginia Senate has passed a resolution expressing support for a pipeline project that died nine months ago.
The Senate approved a resolution Wednesday supporting the scrapped Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would have transported natural gas supplies from West Virginia to public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina.
Project owners Dominion Energy and Duke Energy canceled the 600-mile pipeline in July amid mounting legal challenges to the project’s federal and state permits that delayed the project and caused project costs to soar.
The resolution was advanced by the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee Tuesday after the panel heard from Dominion Energy representative Bob Orndorff, a former president of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.
“We really appreciate the support,” Orndorff said. “I don’t like to lose, like you all, and this was one that kind of cratered on us for a lot of reasons.”
The Senate resolution does not acknowledge that the project was canceled and instructs the Senate clerk to forward copies of it to Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, a joint venture between Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and other energy companies, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and West Virginia’s congressional delegation.
This state legislative session marks the first since the cancellation of the project.
Orndorff recalled that the cost of the project ballooned from $3.5 billion upon its start in 2014 to almost $9 billion. The original targeted in-service date was 2017.
Orndorff estimated that the project would have created 100 pipeline operation jobs each in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina and had created around 2,000 jobs during the construction phase.
“It sure put the hammer on a lot of jobs in our area,” Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, chair of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee, said of the project’s cancellation prior to the committee’s approval of the resolution.
“I’ve got people from Upshur County to Randolph to Pocahontas [in my district] that are out of work now because they’ve shut down,” Sen. Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, said. “So we need to do what we can to get this project moving.”
But the only movement of significance on the project now is dedicated toward undoing it.
The restoration plan that Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC proposed in a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made public in January details a nearly three-year time frame for concluding cleanup along the West Virginia portion of the pipeline route through Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is accepting comments on the proposal through April 16.
West Virginia would be the last of the three states to see cleanup and restoration begin, according to the plan. Cleanup is scheduled to begin in West Virginia in April 2022 and finish in December 2022, with a seeding and mulching phase taking place from May 2022 to January 2023 and a monitoring and maintenance phase lasting from May 2022 until November 2023.
But in Virginia and North Carolina, all three phases are slated to start before the end of 2021.
The project sequencing is mostly based on weather conditions, according to Aaron Ruby, media relations manager for Dominion Energy.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection cited developers of the pipeline in 2018 for failing to control erosion on an Upshur County construction site, which sediment-laden water migrated from.
The restoration plan notes that work in steep West Virginia terrain may require cut-and-fill grading to create a flat surface for vehicles and equipment, a process that usually requires additional workspace and stabilization efforts.
Temporary sediment barriers, including reinforced silt fence and straw bales, would be set up following clearing to prevent disturbed sediment from moving off the construction workspace, Atlantic Coast Pipeline said in the filing, reporting that it had developed measures to help reduce slips on steep slopes and incorporate permit requirements from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Forest Service.
No buried pipe is scheduled for removal, according to the restoration plan.
“The pipe will sit in there,” Orndorff told the Senate energy panel.
Orndorff said that uninstalled pipe is currently being sold.
“We have a buyer for it,” Orndorff said.
Ruby previously said pipe would be abandoned in place to avoid further land disturbance, adding that developers had secured landowner agreements allowing them to leave the pipe in place on all the properties where it was installed.
Most of the installed pipeline is in West Virginia, according to the restoration plan. Of the 31.4 miles of pipe that were installed, 21.8 miles are in West Virginia, which had a higher incidence of disturbances such as pipeline installation, timber felled, clearing and grading than Virginia and North Carolina.
Of the project’s 92.8 miles through West Virginia, only 32.1 miles were left undisturbed, a much smaller undisturbed area compared to Virginia and North Carolina.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline plans to keep the easement agreements that it had on landowners’ properties, including those secured through eminent domain. Ruby said that the company reached voluntary easement agreements with more than 95% of landowners.
The company will not compensate landowners who have filed legal challenges to recoup costs that they claim they incurred due to the project.
The Senate’s resolution now goes before the House of Delegates.