Written by Chloe Marie – Research Specialist
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project is a 600-mile underground pipeline project designed to carry natural gas from wells located in Harrison County, West Virginia, through Virginia to a terminal facility in Robeson County, North Carolina. The pipeline is proposed to have a capacity of approximately 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. This pipeline project also involves the construction of three compressor stations: one each in Lewis County, West Virginia; Buckingham County, Virginia; and Northampton County, North Carolina.
The ACP project is operated as a joint venture of four U.S. energy companies, including Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas. Dominion Energy is the majority owner and is responsible for the construction of the pipeline. Construction on the ACP project has started but significant delays have occurred due to the many regulatory approvals that are necessary prior to putting the pipeline into service as well as numerous legal challenges that have been filed to block and/or delay construction activities.
This article will review the timeline of actions taken by various federal and state regulatory entities involved with the construction of the pipeline; specifically, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and several state agencies in North Carolina. Subsequent articles planned in this series will address the legal challenges that have been filed in various courts opposing the proposed construction activities.
FERC process timeline
Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, initiated a pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the ACP project in late October 2014. The company later sought a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from FERC under sections 7(b) and 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) on September 18, 2015, for construction and operation of the ACP.
On July 21, 2017, FERC released a final environmental impact statement (EIS) concluding that the ACP project would cause adverse effects on steep slopes and adjacent waterbodies together with associated aquatic resources as well as forested vegetation and Endangered Species Act-listed animals. FERC found, however, that these impacts could be reduced to less-than-significant levels. Consequently, FERC granted the company’s request for a certificate to construct and operate the proposed pipeline on October 13, 2017.
North Carolina process timeline
Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, applied for an air permit from the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) in September 2015 for the construction and operation of the Northampton compressor station. This air permit application was subject to revisions in July 2017. On February 27, 2018, DAQ approved and issued the air quality permit for the ACP project.
The North Carolina Division of Water Resources (DWR) received a water quality permit application from Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, in May 2017 and, after much back and forth between DWR and the company regarding submission of additional information, DWR issued a Section 401 water quality certification for the ACP project on January 26, 2018. DWR specified as part of its approval that the water certification would become effective only after Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, obtained an Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) permit from the Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources (DEMLR). After multiple disapprovals of the ESC plans submitted by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, DEMLR conditionally approved said plans in November 2017, subjecting them to certain modifications for the pipeline section that would cross Cumberland, Robeson and Sampson counties. DEMLR finally approved the plans in their entirety on February 1, 2018.
In the meantime, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, filed for two general stormwater permits in November 2017 for impacted areas of Nash and Cumberland counties. DEMLR issued these permits also on February 1, 2018.
Virginia process timeline
On July 6, 2017, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, submitted to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) combined Stormwater Management and Erosion & Sediment Control Plans for the ACP project. The Virginia Water Control Board conditionally approved issuance of a Section 401 water quality certification on December 12, 2017, pending review of certain information by VADEQ contained in the plans.
On October 19, 2018, VADEQ approved the combined Stormwater Management and Erosion & Sediment Control Plans; thus, giving full effect to the water quality certification and allowing Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, to begin pipeline construction in Virginia.
On February 21, 2017, VADEQ received a draft air special use permit application from Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, for the construction and operation of the Buckingham compressor station. The State Air Pollution Control Board held a public hearing on January 8, 2019, on the proposed permit in order to consider specific documents that the Board received on November 8 and 9, 2018.
West Virginia process timeline
On July 21, 2016, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) issued an air permit to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, for the construction of the Marts compressor station that will operate in Lewis County.
On December 6, 2017, WVDEP announced that it had waived its Clean Water Act authority regarding the Section 401 individual certification for the ACP project. In justifying such waiver, WVDEP declared that the “special West Virginia conditions that exist in the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Nationwide permit are designed to mirror what would be in a 401 individual certification issued by West Virginia.”
On January 26, 2018, WVDEP issued a “Stormwater Associated with Oil and Gas Related Construction Activities General Permit” for the ACP project.
Legal challenges faced by ACP
While the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has faced lengthy regulatory approval processes, it also has defended against numerous legal challenges filed against proposed construction activities related to the pipeline. Our next three Shale Law in the Spotlight articles will address these legal challenges. Stay tuned!
This material is based upon work supported by the National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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