Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality on Friday gave state authorization for construction to begin on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, subject to final approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
DEQ said it had approved engineering designs to protect water quality during and after construction of the $6.5 billion natural gas pipeline, spearheaded by Dominion Energy.
“Protecting Virginia’s environmental resources is one of our greatest priorities,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s comprehensive review allows us to remain confident that these final construction plans will protect our natural resources.
“After more than a year of detailed analysis, all aspects of these plans have been carefully reviewed, modified and intensified before being approved by DEQ.”
Dominion Energy and its partners propose to build the pipeline from West Virginia to southeastern Virginia and North Carolina. The pipeline would run through parts of Nelson and Buckingham counties.
DEQ’s approval of the pipeline’s erosion and sediment control plans and its stormwater management plan allow the state’s water quality certification to take effect.
“This is a major step forward for the project and brings our region one step closer to a growing economy, a cleaner environment and greater energy security,” said Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for the pipeline effort.
“Thousands of hardworking Virginians and local businesses across the state will soon be hard at work building this transformational project.”
Ruby said pipeline proponents are asking FERC for a Notice to Proceed with full construction in Virginia.
The Virginia League of Conservation Voters said DEQ had issued a “license to pollute” for the 42-inch-diameter pipeline, which it said “will impact more than 300 miles of Virginia mountainside, heartland and hundreds of waterways.”
“Even as their on-the-ground safeguards for pipeline construction have failed Southwest Virginia, today state regulators saw it fit to allow an even larger, more complicated and environmentally destructive pipeline project to move forward, despite clear evidence that these pipelines can’t be built safely,” said Lee Francis, deputy director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.
Pipeline construction in a national forest in Virginia remains blocked as a three-judge panel reviews environmental groups’ appeal of permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service.
In September, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put a hold on plans to cut a path for construction of the pipeline through the George Washington National Forest in Virginia and the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.
Ruby said the ACP is necessary to meet growing energy needs for businesses and other consumers.
Francis said “we simply don’t need hundreds of miles of costly and environmentally destructive gas infrastructure to keep the lights on in Virginia.”
Strickler, the secretary of natural resources, acknowledged that “the pipeline projects have raised concerns,” referring to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
He added: “We remain dedicated to holding them to the highest environmental standards possible pursuant to state authorities.”