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US regulators OK Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley pipelines

October 13, 2017 - 6:27 PM

RICHMOND, Va. - A divided panel of federal regulators granted approvals Friday evening for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley natural gas pipelines, major East Coast projects.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's authorization had been widely expected by both supporters and opponents of the pipelines. The certificates granted by the commission came with dozens of conditions, and other necessary permits for both projects are still pending.

Both pipelines would start in West Virginia, carrying gas from the Appalachian basin to U.S. markets.

The $3.5 billion, 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline would run south from northern West Virginia through the centre of the state, cross into Virginia west of Roanoke, and then cut southeast to a point north of Danville. EQT Midstream Partners will operate the pipeline and own a significant interest in the joint venture with other energy companies.

The 600-mile, approximately $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline would start in north-central West Virginia, cross Virginia and bend through eastern North Carolina. Its lead developer is Dominion Energy.

The pipelines have been widely supported by business and political leaders, who say the projects will lower energy costs and boost economic development. But opponents, including environmental groups and landowners, say the projects will infringe on property rights, damage pristine areas and commit the region to fossil fuels just when global warming makes it essential to invest in renewable energy instead.

The approvals mean the pipeline developers will have the authority to use eminent domain to acquire land if they can't reach an agreement with a landowner.

One of the three commissioners, Cheryl LaFleur, dissented, writing that she couldn't conclude either project was in the public interest.

That determination was "heavily influenced by similarities in their respective routes, impact, and timing," she wrote.

"Given the environmental impacts and possible superior alternatives, approving these two pipeline projects on this record is not a decision I can support," wrote LaFleur, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

Neither of the lead developers of the pipelines could immediately be reached for comment Friday evening.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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