LUMBERTON — Construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline cleared another regulatory hurdle on Friday.
“After more than three years of exhaustive study, the Forest Service has issued a favorable Record of Decision authorizing construction, operation and maintenance of the ACP on Forest Service lands, as well as amendments to the Forest Service’s Land Resource Management Plans,” Aaron Ruby, Dominion Energy Media Relations manager, said in a statement. “The agency concluded that the project will be built with minimal impacts to the national forests, wildlife, water quality and other environmental resources under the agency’s care.”
Dominion is in a partnership with Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas to build the a 600-mile-long, $5 billion, natural gas pipeline that would begin in West Virginia and end in Pembroke.
The Forest Service has issued a favorable Record of Decision authorizing construction, operation and maintenance of the pipeline on Forest Service lands, according to Ruby. The agency concluded the project will be built with minimal affects to the forests, wildlife, water quality and other environmental resources under the agency’s care.
“The Forest Service will implement its approval by issuing separate Special Use Permits for construction and operation of the pipeline,” Ruby said.
The decision affects the George Washington National Forest in west central Virginia and the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia.
“The decision was jointly issued by the Forest Service’s Southern and Eastern Regional Foresters and authorizes the use and occupancy of National Forest System (NFS) lands for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project, and approves project specific amendments for the GWNF and MNF Forest Plans,” the Record of Decision reads in part.
The required Special Use Permit for the pipeline project has been issued as part of the implementation of the Record of Decision, according to the Forest Service. Upon acceptance by the pipeline’s builders of the permit’s terms and confirmation that all necessary federal and state authorizations are in place, the Forest Service will allow Atlantic to proceed with the project.
“This Forest Service decision supports federal policies emphasizing energy infrastructure, jobs, economic growth and our agency’s efforts to provide for multiple use. The decision authorizes the pipeline and approves project-specific forest plan amendments,” the Record of Decision reads in part.
The final decision authorizes the use and occupancy of National Forest System lands for the ACP project, amends forest plans standards to allow the construction and operation of the pipeline project, allows the issuance of special use permits in northern long-eared bat habitat, designates a 50-foot-wide permanent right-of-way, allows the pipeline to cross under the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Augusta County, Va., at a location where existing impacts do not already exist.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline partners received some good news on Oct. 13 when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project. The approval was expected by pipeline supporters and opponents.
The pipeline has met some resistance in Robeson County in recent months by people who say it’s not necessary, that it infringes on property rights, and that it will harm the environment.
Proponents, including the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, say the pipeline will help recruit industry to the area that want access to natural gas, and that will mean jobs. The owners of the pipeline would also pay properties taxes on the infrastructure.
At least two legal challenges to the pipeline project have been filed in North Carolina.
A petition was filed Oct. 6 in Superior Court in Robeson County asking the court to review the county Board of Commissioners’ decision in August to approve a conditional use permit for the builders of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The petitioners are Dwayne Goins and Robie Joe Goins, owners of property where the proposed 600-mile natural gas pipeline is to end in Pembroke. Listed on the petition as respondents are Robeson County and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC.
On Monday, an alliance of 21 local and state public interest groups began an appeal process of the natural gas pipeline, according to NC WARN Director Jim Warren. The groups claim federal regulators cut corners, ignored environmental injustice and climate destruction, and usurped state authority in approving construction. The groups called for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s federal approval to be suspended until the courts consider the case and three North Carolina state agencies rule on broad areas of information that are either missing or which disqualify the project outright.
Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974.