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Duke Energy, Dominion cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could continue, the two companies supporting the project announced the pipeline’s cancellation.

Duke Energy Corp. and Dominion Energy Inc. said Sunday the decision is connected to delays as well as “increasing cost uncertainty which threaten the economic viability of the project.”

“For almost six years we have worked diligently and invested billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver the much-needed infrastructure to our customers and communities,” Duke Energy’s Lynn Good and Dominion Energy’s Thomas Farrell said in a joint statement.

“Throughout we have engaged extensively with and incorporated feedback from local communities, labor and industrial leaders, government and permitting agencies, environmental interests and social justice organizations. We express sincere appreciation for the tireless efforts and important contributions made by all who were involved in this essential project.”

The 600-mile pipeline, first announced in 2014, would have gone from Harrison County, West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina. Supporters said it would have resulted in thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in local tax revenue.

The Supreme Court last month ruled 7-2 the Forest Service had the authority to issue a permit allowing the pipeline to cross under the Appalachian Trail. The justices’ decision overturned a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals verdict blocking the special-use permit.

Environmental organizations argued that only Congress can authorize such crossing. Groups also said the project would pose risks to wildlife and nearby properties.

The companies pointed to other judicial rulings as problematic for the pipeline’s future; the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in April blocked a federal permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to consider the project’s effects on endangered species. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request to stay that decision.

“The potential for a Supreme Court stay of the district court’s injunction would not ultimately change the judicial venue for appeal nor decrease the uncertainty associated with an eventual ruling,” the companies said.

Duke Energy and Dominion Energy also mentioned the cost of the pipeline has nearly doubled to $8 billion.

“This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged,” Good and Farrell said.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., called the project’s cancellation a reminder about reaching a “responsible balance” between economic activity and environmental concerns.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project took meaningful steps to ensure the pipeline was safely constructed and the Appalachian Trail and surrounding areas were protected,” said Manchin, who is the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“The pipeline would have created good paying construction and manufacturing jobs for hard working West Virginians, reinvested in our energy markets increasing our domestic energy supply, and strengthened national security with reliable energy to key military installations.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said recent growth in American energy production has presented West Virginia with opportunities for economic growth, which included the pipeline.

“This project would have allowed for the expanded supplies of natural gas for residential and commercial heating and electricity generation, which would have provided affordable energy for residents and businesses while also spurring economic development,” she said on Twitter. “WV is energy rich, and we should make it easier to use energy resources produced right here at home to meet demand across the country.”

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., also emphasized the project’s possible economic benefits.

“Ground activists created challenges every step of the way and caused the destruction of much these much needed jobs and tax revenue. West Virginia is energy rich and we should make it easier for energy sources to be produced domestically,” he tweeted.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is part of the coalition arguing for a stay in the Keystone XL pipeline decision in addition to the group that recently went before the Supreme Court.

“The concept of one district court judge paralyzing the construction of pipelines across our country is very disconcerting,” he said. “My office will look even more closely at this matter and will keep up our all-in fight for West Virginia jobs. We should and must not quit fights like these.”

Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., announced plans to introduce legislation to “make sure what happened to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project never happens again.”

“Supporting our natural gas industry is crucial to American energy independence, growing our energy exports, and providing clean, affordable, reliable power. We can and must do a better job ensuring we complete major natural gas projects,” she tweeted.

CNBC reported Sunday that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. will buy Dominion Energy’s natural gas transmission and storage assets for $4 billion. The deal will also including assuming $5.7 billion in debt.

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