The Demand for a New Atlantic Coast Pipeline

on April 11, 2017 at 10:19 AM

A new pipeline may be in the works in the United States. Three states boast lawmakers who are pushing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve the $5.1 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposal, as put forth by Dominion. Environmentalists, of course, have said this pipeline is simply not necessary.

Sixteen lawmakers from Virginia, West  Virginia, and North Carolina have been fighting for the approval, citing the economic benefits as reason enough to build – job creation would be impactful. They also cited the need for additional gas supply in the region.OPAL Pipeline To Connect To Baltic Sea

However, the argument from environmentalists is that Dominion’s demand projections are inflated – they do not believe there will be that much need for gas and power, and therefore the pipeline is not necessary. This position comes courtesy of the Southern Environmental Law Center. However, other groups have used a more traditional argument – the environmental review for the pipeline is, in their opinion, inadequate, falling short of legal requirements.

The proposed pipeline would be 600 miles long, and would be used to transport gas along the East Coast from West Virginia to North Carolina. The system would have a capacity of 1.5 million dekatherms/day. The debate over the approval demonstrates the large rift between legislators and their environmental constituents.

Last year, the FERC recommended that the plans for the pipeline be moved forward, only to hear outcries from various preservationist groups.

Specifically, the Southern Environmental Law Center compared the demand outlooks presented by Dominion with those presented by PJM, a regional grid operator. The center is arguing that Dominion is inflating the demand to make the project seem more appealing than it actually is. For example, the forecasts from PJM for peak power usage in 2027 are more than 3.5 GW lower that the numbers reported by Dominion.

Of course, Dominion itself responded to these claims, saying that the models used by the regional grid operator do not take into account several factors that are unique to Virginia.

Concerning the environmental impact of the project, other groups have been quite vocal. The Alleghany-Blue Ridge Alliance, for example, is representing over 50 other organizations that voices opposition to the proposal. They begin by also citing the discrepancy in demand reports, however, they focus their argument on other supposedly inaccurate projections. The group claims that the FERC has failed to properly estimate the impact that the pipeline’s construction and regular operation would have on minority and low-income communities.

The Director of the Alliance has gone as far as to suggest that this incomplete analysis is a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. He also makes a point to address the impact a decision like this would have on future generations – more reason he believes a more sufficient and scrutinizing analysis should take place.

However, the pipeline has bipartisan support from the states’ legislators. Like their environmentalist counterparts, they have also petitioned the commission, claiming that the pipeline poses no threats the states’ natural resources, but rather that it will help protect the environment – they are making clean-burning natural gas more readily available.

The original report from the FERC, recommending the approval of the project, did include that the pipeline would result in both temporary and permanent environmental impacts. However, they believe that the mitigation efforts they will put in place will reduce the impact to insignificant levels.

The final verdict is expected to come in the fall, following an update in June 2017.