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Atlantic Coast environmental assessment ‘favourable’

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World Pipelines,

The release of the report sets the stage for a final decision from the commission on whether the project can proceed.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline intended to carry natural gas across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina would have some adverse environmental effects, including impacts on water resources, forest and other habitats, an assessment by federal regulators found.

However, the assessment found that if developers use proper construction and mitigation techniques, most of those environmental impacts could be reduced to "less-than-significant" levels.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate natural gas pipelines, released its final environmental impact statement Friday for the proposed 600 mile (965 km) pipeline, which has broad support from political and business leaders but is opposed by environmentalists and many affected landowners.

The release of the report sets the stage for a final decision from the commission on whether the project can proceed. The agency's commissioners will weigh the environmental impact statement as well whether the project meets a public need and whether its proposed gas rates are just and reasonable in making that decision, according to FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen.

Initially proposed in 2014, the pipeline would originate in north-central West Virginia, cross Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and run south of the Virginia capital of Richmond to a compressor station near the North Carolina border. An extension would run to the Hampton Roads area along the coast while the main pipeline would continue into North Carolina, ending near the South Carolina line.

Developers have promised that construction alone would create will create 17 000 new jobs and US$2.7 billion in economic activity across the region, and once the pipeline is operational, they say the reliable supply of natural gas will attract heavy manufacturers that have previously passed over Virginia and North Carolina.

The leading company behind the $5 billion project called the assessment "favourable" and said it paved the way for final approval later this year.v

"While some impacts on the environment and landowners are unavoidable with any infrastructure project, the report demonstrates that we've taken all necessary steps to minimise those impacts and balance them with the urgent public need for the project," Leslie Hartz, Dominion Energy's Vice President for Engineering and Construction, said in a statement.

Ordinarily, a final decision can come any time after a pipeline's final environmental impact statement is complete, but the five-member panel currently lacks a quorum, with only one commissioner currently serving. President Donald Trump has announced four nominees, who still must be approved by the Senate.

The pipeline is being developed by four energy companies: Richmond-based Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and Southern Company Gas.

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