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New study stirs Virginia pipeline controversy

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World Pipelines,

A recent study that was conducted by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. was commissioned by two environmental organisations – Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates. The report concludes that both the Atlantic Coast pipeline and the Mountain Valley pipeline need not be built. The reason for this conclusion is because the existing pipelines can supply enough fuel for the region until 2030.

"Additional interstate natural gas pipelines, like the Atlantic Coast pipeline and the Mountain Valley pipeline, are not needed to keep the lights on, homes and businesses heated and industrial facilities in production,'' Synapse said.

Rather than introducing more pipelines, the study suggests that modifications and upgrades should be made to the ones already in place.

Synapse based its conclusion on several factors. These factors include existing pipeline capacity in the region, existing natural gas storage and on an expected reversal in the direction of the flow of the Transco pipeline and the anticipated upgrade of a Columbia Gas pipeline.

The proposed 600 mile Atlantic Coast pipeline path starts in West Virginia, runs through Virginia before entering eastern The 301 mile Mountain Valley pipeline is a projected natural gas pipeline, which would run from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. Both of the pipelines are currently under consideration by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

"Evidence shows these pipelines don't need to go in anyone's backyard,'' said Greg Buppert, an attorney of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Joe Lovett, commented: “It will create more greenhouse gases than burning coal would for same amount of energy. The real victim here is this region.”

Spokesperson for Dominion Resources, part of Dominion Virginia Power – the company behind the Atlantic Coast pipeline project ¬– Aaron Ruby, commented: "There is an urgent need for the Atlantic Coast pipeline to meet the growing energy needs of public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina. The demand for natural gas for these two states is expected to grow by 165% over the next 20 years.”

“Our existing pipelines in the region are constrained and operating near full capacity, they are not capable of meeting the region’s growing need as far natural gas,” Ruby added.

Ruby argues that the study includes a lot of misleading data, and that it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the natural gas pipeline system works.

According to studies commissioned by the project’s developers, the pipeline is expected to generate economic benefits across Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia. Benefits include over 17 000 jobs, US$2.7 billion in economic activity and US$4.2 million in average annual local tax revenue during construction.

FERC is currently evaluating the proposals. At this point, FERC plans to issue a final environmental impact statement by June 2017, with a federal decision deadline set for September 2017.

Edited from various sources by Anna Nicklin

Sources: Virginia Business, Daily Progress, NBC 29, WHSV

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