- The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has waived its authority to certify water permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline under the Clean Water Act, the second time in about a month it has waived its authority and allowed a major pipeline project advance.
- DEP officials said, however, said the move does not diminish its oversight of the project. It has scheduled two hearings on a construction stormwater permit that would give the agency "wide ranging inspection and enforcement authority over the project."
- The pipeline would carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia into North Carolina and Virginia. It is being developed by Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas, and will cost up to $5 billion to construct.
It is the second time in about a month that West Virginia officials waived their rights to certify a pipeline project under the Clean Water Act. Last month, the DEP lifted the suspension on Mountain Valley Pipeline 's state stormwater permit and waived certification of CWA permits. But officials are adamant that the waivers do not mean less oversight over the controversial project.
Waiving the 401 individual certification "does not indicate that there will be fewer environmental
requirements to which the ACP must adhere," West Virgnia DEP said in a statement. Special West Virginia-specific conditions that exist in a U.S.Army Corps of Engineers permit are "designed to mirror what would be in a 401 individual certification issued by West Virginia."
"Under the Nationwide permit, enforcement would be left to federal agencies and would be limited to stream crossings. Combining the West Virginia special conditions in the USACE Nationwide permit with the broader
regulatory oversight in the West Virginia pipeline construction stormwater permit will provide for a
level of inspection and enforcement on this large project that is not available in any surrounding state," the DEP said.
Atlantic Coast may have hit a snag in North Carolina, however. According to the News & Observer, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has requested additional information from the project, in order to issue air quality permits for a compressor station. The project is already a year behind schedule. Dominion Energy will own 48% of the project; Duke and Piedmont own 47%; and Southern owns 5%.
In Virginia, Dominion will use the gas to fuel power plants, while Virginia Natural Gas, one of the largest local gas utilities with 300,000 customers, would use the gas to provide home heating, in addition for commercial and industrial operations. In North Carolina, Duke Energy will use the gas to generate electricity, while Piedmont Natural Gas will provide for heating and industrial operations. The fifth customer is Public Service Company of North Carolina, owned by SCANA Corp.