BUCKHANNON – More than half of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline scheduled to be built across Upshur County will likely be completed by the end of the year, according to a Dominion spokesperson.
Samantha Norris, communications specialist with Dominion Energy, the primary owner and operator of the 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline, recently reflected ACP’s progress and answered a few additional questions posed by My Buckhannon.
By the end of 2018, Norris estimates 13.5 of the nearly 23 miles of pipeline slated to be constructed in Upshur County will have been completed, pending weather conditions. The 42-inch pipeline begins in Harrison County and will wind its way south through Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties before continuing into Virginia and eventually ending in Robeson County, North Carolina.
While Dominion is heading up the construction process and will operate the line, ACP is a joint venture between Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas.
In her comments, Norris touted the benefits of the project for area residents.
“ACP is not only bringing good paying jobs to hard working men and women around the region, but it is fueling local economies,” she said. “Restaurants, gas stations, hotels and locally owned businesses are booming right now in areas where construction is active.”
She said a variety of community organizations and projects have been bolstered by pipeline workers making Upshur County their home. In addition to people who work directly for Dominion, the energy company also contracts with other companies who employ additional workers.
“We’re getting word regularly about our contractors and employees making personal donations to local school supply drives, food banks and recently even jumped in to restore a youth soccer field in Upshur County after vandals destroyed the grounds,” Norris said. “ACP is also investing thousands into the local communities by helping support youth outreach, libraries, community events, food access programs and by making contributions to numerous nonprofits across the region.
“Because of this, the benefits of this project are reaching much farther than the 600 miles of pipeline that are going into the ground,” she added.
So, what’s still left to wrap up before the year’s end?
Four additional miles of pipeline are scheduled to be laid in Upshur County, with three more miles scheduled for Lewis County.
“Also in Lewis, we are continuing site prep on the Marts Compressor Station,” Norris said. “The vast majority of work in Lewis County (approximately 14 miles mostly in Lewis with a little over one mile in Harrison County) will be completed in 2019.”
Although ACP and its contractors will stop some work on the pipeline over the holiday season and winter months, other jobs will continue, Norris said.
“Most pipe stringing, bending and welding will be suspended during the winter months in West Virginia,” she explained. “Not all work, however, will stop this winter. Work on access roads, tree felling and removal, road bores and monitoring environmental controls will continue. Where the climates are more favorable, like that in North Carolina, construction will continue as permitted. When weather allows next spring, full construction will commence again in West Virginia as permitting allows.”
However, the construction process for ACP hasn’t been without road bumps.
The project has encountered a number of challenges to its permits in the form of lawsuits filed by lawyers on behalf of environmental groups throughout West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. In fact, a five-week work stoppage in August and September when a federal appeals court vacated a couple key environmental permits, caused the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to serve Dominion with a work stoppage order.
That delay will result in two miles of pipeline, two road crossings and several stream crossings not being built in 2018 as scheduled, Norris said.
“The FERC stop work order and delays obtaining permits necessary for construction have impacted the schedule for the project,” Norris said. “Atlantic Coast Pipeline is pursuing a phased in-service approach with its customers, whereby we maintain a late 2019 in-service for key segments of the project to meet peak winter demand in critically constrained regions served by the project.”
Some parts of the project won’t be wrapped up until 2020 due to delays.
ACP will be pursuing a mid-2020 in-service date for the remaining segments of the project,” Norris explained. “The Supply Header project target in-service remains late 2019. We continue to achieve key milestones toward the successful completion of this critical energy infrastructure project and look forward to delivering safe, reliable and affordable energy to our customers in time to meet peak demand for the 2019/20 winter season.”
Of the three states through which ACP will stretch, Norris said the most work has been completed in the Mountain State and then North Carolina. Dominion didn’t receive the final permit from Virginia authorities necessary to apply for the FERC’s permission to begin construction in all three states until Oct. 19.
Norris said environmental preservation and public safety are Dominion’s top priorities.
“We continue to make environment and safety our top priority and have largely been very successful in meeting our commitments to ethical pipeline construction,” she said.