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Atlantic Coast Pipeline cancellation draws lament from construction union leader

A leader of West Virginia’s construction unions expressed deep disappointment about the cancellation of the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.

Steve White

“Terrible day. Pretty sad, but frustrated, frankly,” said Steve White, executive director of the West Virginia Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation.

“A lot of paychecks we just won’t get for local workers, and it’s a terrible loss.”

White was speaking on MetroNews’ Talkline about the project’s cancellation, which was announced Sunday.

At the peak of work, about 5,000 construction workers were expected to be on the pipeline job in West Virginia, White said.

That would have involved welders, equipment operators, laborers and drivers. “For those crafts, devastating,” White said.

He said clearing had been completed and some preparation was underway, but the actual pipeline construction hadn’t yet started.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s path was supposed to have started in Harrison County, continuing through Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties before extending through Virginia and into southeastern North Carolina.

The announcement was made Sunday by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, which were jointly developing the pipeline.

The companies cited “ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty which threaten the economic viability of the project.”

The project just had a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled the pipeline could cross the Appalachian Trail.

But pipeline construction was challenged on other legal fronts, including federal rulings in Montana that canceled a key permit allowing dredging work across water bodies for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would affect permitting for additional pipeline projects.

“What a rollercoaster,” White said. “We knew there were further challenges ahead. The cancellation no, took me by surprise.”

During a conference call with investors today, Dominion chief executive Tom Farrell noted that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project was first announced in 2014.

Since then, delays have pushed out the timeline and driven up the cost from an original estimate of about $5 billion up to $8 billion.

“For almost six years we have worked diligently and invested literally billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver much needed infrastructure to our customers and communities,” Farrell said.

He said the adverse court rulings and “litigation risks make the project too uncertain to justify investing more shareholder capital.”

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

A coalition of environmental groups challenged various aspects of the pipeline’s permitting, saying the projects effects could not be justified and contending it cut too many regulatory corners.

“This is a victory for all the communities that were in the path of this risky and unnecessary project,” stated Greg Buppert, senior attorney for one of the groups, the Southern Environment Law Center.

Shelley Moore Capito

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was among the public officials who expressed disappointment over the cancellation.

“West Virginia is energy rich, and we should make it easier to use energy resources produced right here at home to meet demand across the country,” Capito stated.

White of the Affiliated Construction Trades contended that various levels of regulatory review make it extremely difficult for a large-scale, multi-state project to proceed.

“The process is clearly a flawed process. I mean, six years this has been under way. In the courts. Out of the courts. It’s a hodgepodge of permitting agencies, regulatory bodies,” White said.

“I don’t know how we’re ever going to build our infrastructure given the scenario these outfits face.”

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