By Peter Galuszka
For six long years, Dominion Energy and its partners in the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline have waged war against Virginians as they have pushed their way forward with the 600-mile-long natural gas project.
Their strong-armed methods have created untold misery and expense for land-owners, members of lower income minority communities, nature lovers, bird watchers, fishermen, and many others.
When some declined to let the ACP to trespass on their property for survey work, they ended up in lengthy and expensive lawsuits. Others spent hundreds of hours on their own time and dime fighting Virginia regulatory agencies who all but seemed to be in the pocket of the ACP.
And so it goes. For what? So Dominion and its partners could make billions of dollars, some of it paid for by electricity ratepayers, for a project whose public need was always in doubt. On July 5, the ACP threw in the towel.
I put together this commentary in The Washington Post suggesting what might be done to prevent this from happening again:
(1) Change laws to keep pipeline builders off property for surveys if they are not wanted and if a true public need for the project cannot be demonstrated in court.
(2) Change the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission so it has to really look at whether a project before it has an economic purpose. FERC has met few projects it didn’t like. It usually needs just proof of a contract. In the ACP case, that was a contract between ACP and its partners and their own subsidiaries. Does someone smell rotten eggs?
(3) There need to be stronger legal protections to prevent powerful companies from having their way with communities of color.
(4) Energy projects must be considered in a holistic way and not piecemeal. Do we really need the ACP, the Mountain Valley Pipeline and a bunch of others?
(5) The fix always seems to be for Big Business with state regulators. Change that.
The death of the ACP could be, and should be, a watershed moment.