Federal regulators order Atlantic Coast Pipeline to provide a plan for project wind-down, restoration

By: - October 29, 2020 12:12 pm

The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route. (Image via Protecthighland.org)

Almost four months after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, federal regulators have ordered the project developers to provide a plan for what they intend to do with the facilities and the lands where the natural gas pipeline was supposed to be built. 

The order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission applies to both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Supply Header Project, a roughly 38-mile pipeline that was expected to connect the ACP with existing pipelines in Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

“In order for us to determine if additional commission authorizations are required in conjunction with cancellations, we will need more detail about your plans regarding the authorized facilities,” wrote Rich McGuire, director of FERC’s Division of Gas Environment and Engineering, in an Oct. 27 letter to Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc., the majority owner of the project. 

FERC has asked that the plan be filed within 60 days. 

Among the requested information is a schedule for final arrangements regarding the project’s different phases and restoration activities related to them, a description of how areas where construction has begun but no pipe has been installed will be restored and “a plan for the long-term restoration of disturbed rights-of-way.”

The company will also be required to provide an update on the status of its discussions with affected landowners, including “preferences regarding treatment of pipeline segments that have already been installed,” “preferences for removal of felled trees that have not been cleared” and “preferences on how disturbed areas would be restored, depending on their land use type.” 

The cancellation of the planned 604-mile pipeline left in limbo many landowners who had granted easements for the project, whether willingly or not. 

Atlantic Coast Pipeline signed a range of easements with landowners along the project’s path. While some included clauses terminating the easement if the pipeline wasn’t built within a certain period of time or imposing other restrictive terms, others granted the developers broader rights on a permanent basis. 

Asked about how Dominion intends to approach easements that remain in force and whether it plans to relinquish those easements, Dominion spokesperson Aaron Ruby said in an email the company “will work with each landowner whose property has been disturbed to develop a plan for the right of way on their property” and will “evaluate each easement agreement on a case-by-case basis in consultation with each landowner.”

“Our goal is to close out the project as efficiently as possible and with minimal environmental disturbance,” he wrote.

Dominion will continue to oversee the closeout of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline despite the sale of its gas transmission arm, Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc., to Berkshire Hathaway. That sale, announced this July concurrently with the pipeline cancellation, is expected to be finalized later this year and does not include the ACP. 

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists.