Pipeline officials give update to Commission
ELKINS — Representatives from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline gave an update on the project to the Randolph County Commission Thursday.
Local representative Denise Campbell, former Dominion Energy state policy director Robert Orndorff and new Dominion Energy state policy director Jason Harshbarger appeared before commissioners on Thursday.
“We are committed to building this pipeline. That’s the bottom line,” said Harshbarger.
“Right now we have two issues in front of us — permits,” he added. “One is through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, which revolves around the rusty patch bumble bee. We has some groups oppose our permits who said that we didn’t do a thorough job investigating our taking of those rusty patch bumblebees.”
Harshbarger said the company has since done extensive studies of the rusty patch bumblebee population, which indicated that “the rusty patch bumblebee population is larger than (they) thought.”
“Once our corridor is built, there will still be plenty of rusty patch bumblebees surviving,” he said.
Harshbarger stated that they are working closely with the US Fish & Wildlife Service in order to resubmit those permits and obtain clearance to move forward with the project.
“The other (issue) is the Appalachian Trail, which is through the National Forest Service,” he said.
“The National Forest Service has the right to approve utilities, power lines, water lines and sewer lines, but it doesn’t specifically say pipelines.”
“Historically, there have been 62 pipelines that already cross the Appalachian Trail, but ours was taken up to the Forest Circuit, which said that the National Forest Service didn’t have the authority to approve a pipeline — even though 62 have already been installed underneath the Appalachian Trial.”
“That is being taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. “We’re very optimistic that that will be a ruling in our favor so we can continue construction of the project.”
Harshbarger said he anticipates that the pipeline will be back in full construction next summer if everything goes in their favor.
He stated that because of delays, the project has gone from costing an estimated $3.5 billion to approximately $7 billion.
“It’s the largest infrastructure project in North America,” he said.
He additionally stated that there is a human need for gas and clean, reliable energy across the pipeline route.
Randolph County Commission President Mark Scott stated that he appreciates the commitment to continuing the project and added that “it’s something that needs to be done.”
“This state was swimming in gas, and there was no way to get it out. Having a way to get it out to the consumers that need it is vital,” said Scott.
“The gas that’s being moved on ACP is for domestic use; it’s not being shipped overseas. It’s going to be used in our state, in our country and not be shipped overseas. So, it is a human need,” said Orndorff.
Construction of the 600-mile pipeline has been on hold since December. The project designed to carry natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina is years behind schedule
Dominion, which is a partner in the pipeline along with Duke Energy and Southern Co., says the pipeline will lower energy costs and boost economic development, both through its construction and by increasing the availability of natural gas.
Opponents say the project will cause environmental harm and question the need for a massive natural gas pipeline at a time when they say climate change makes it imperative to invest in renewable energy.
The next regular meeting of the Randolph County Commission will be Oct. 17 at 1:30 in the James Cain Courthouse Annex.