CLARKSBURG — Opposition to natural gas pipeline projects has the potential to negatively impact West Virginia’s economy, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute.
If coordinated efforts to slow or block pipeline projects like Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline are ultimately successful, they could prevent at least $91.9 billion in domestic economic activity and could eliminate nearly 730,000 job opportunities throughout the country. In addition, federal, state and local governments could miss out on more than $20 billion in tax revenue, according to the study.
“The anti-energy movement’s opposition to vital energy infrastructure comes with a real cost: Lost job opportunities and billions in prevented domestic economic activity,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Energy Institute.
“America’s newfound status as a global energy superpower has created opportunities here at home and around the world, but in order to harness our abundant natural resources and innovation, we must have adequate infrastructure,” Harbert said. “Unfortunately, a small but vocal group of activists is waging fights against these projects around the nation.”
Work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $6.25 billion project intended to transport natural gas along a 600-mile route from Harrison County to Robeson County, North Carolina, is halted after challenges from environmental groups brought a ruling from the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals staying the project’s biological opinion and incidental take statement issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The same court issued another ruling less than a week later that overturned a U.S. Forest Service permit allowing pipeline construction in two national forests and across the Appalachian Trail.
The rulings have had a detrimental impact on much of the project’s workforce, according to ACP spokesman Aaron Ruby.
“We have been forced in recent days to lay off or delay hiring more than 4,500 skilled construction workers in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina,” he said. “As a result, thousands of working families will spend this holiday season without a paycheck and steady work. We are confident we will ultimately prevail in the courts and resume construction, but that will not undo the damage already done to these working families.”
While the most recent opposition to the ACP has brought the project to a standstill, there have been numerous challenges and delays since the start of construction in 2016.
Not long after the project was initially announced in 2014, local opposition groups formed and focused on encouraging activists to write letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, contact representatives and politicians, sign petitions and join protests opposing the pipeline, according to the study.
Larger regional and national opposition groups, such as the Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, 350.org, the Bold Alliance and the Sierra Club, lent their resources and support to the opposition, according to the study.
The tactics used against the ACP are based on a playbook developed by environmental groups that oppose the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, said Matt Koch, vice president of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Energy Institute.
“That’s what we think we some of the impetus was, and then it just continues to grow,” he said. “They are utilizing some of the same tools throughout the country, everything from the filing of lawsuits and using the regulatory process to protests.”
If the environmental groups are ultimately successful in derailing the ACP project the region would lose 21,079 jobs, could lose more than $500 million in potential tax revenues and could potentially lose billions in economic investments, according to the study.
Dominion officials believe they will be able to overcome the challenges to the ACP project, Ruby said.
“We are confident we will ultimately prevail in the courts and resume construction, but that will not undo the damage already done to these working families,” he said.
Although the challenges to the ACP project are being brought by “environmental groups,” their efforts will have the opposite effect in the long run, Ruby said.
“Their delay tactics are not protecting the environment. They are harming consumers and working families, damaging our economy and threatening our energy security,” he said. “Further delays to this project will only result in higher energy costs, delayed access to cleaner energy and less reliable energy for consumers.”
The completion of the ACP project is critical to the economic and environmental future of West Virginia and surrounding states, Ruby said.
“Public utilities are depending on it to meet the basic energy needs of millions of people and to power our economy,” he said. “This project will bring cleaner, more affordable and more reliable electricity to millions; it will improve the environment by moving our region from coal to cleaner energy; and it will help grow our economy with new manufacturing and lower energy costs.”
Read the full article and more in WV News.