Dominion Energy and Duke Energy cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline project

FILE - This Feb. 8, 2018, file photo shows signs that mark the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Deerfield, Va. Dominion Energy Virginia recently told state regulators "significant build-out" of natural gas-fired generating facilities is no longer viable because of renewable energy legislation lawmakers passed earlier this year. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RALEIGH – Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced Sunday afternoon that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which was planned to span 600 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and eastern North Carolina, due to ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty. Dominion and Duke announced the decision in a joint news release from the two companies.

“We regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. For almost six years we have worked diligently and invested billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver the much-needed infrastructure to our customers and communities,” said Thomas F. Farrell, II, Dominion Energy chairman, president, and chief executive officer, and Lynn J. Good, Duke Energy chair, president, and chief executive officer, in a joint statement.

“Throughout we have engaged extensively with and incorporated feedback from local communities, labor and industrial leaders, government and permitting agencies, environmental interests and social justice organizations. We express sincere appreciation for the tireless efforts and important contributions made by all who were involved in this essential project. This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.”

Dominion and Duke cited court decisions which would create uncertainty and delays as a key reason for cancellation of the project. A series of legal challenges to the project’s federal and state permits has caused significant project cost increases and timing delays, according to the companies.

Also in the statement was public guidance indicating the projected project cost increased to $8 billion from an original estimate of $4.5 to $5.0 billion. In addition, the most recent public estimate of commercial in-service in early 2022 represents a nearly three-and- a-half-year delay with further uncertainty remaining.

Gov. Roy Cooper immediately commented on the decision, saying, “This decision and the changing energy landscape should lead to cleaner and more reliable energy generation in North Carolina. Our Clean Energy Plan provides an excellent framework and stakeholder process for renewable energy moving forward.”

Left unclear is the fate of the $58 million “mitigation fund” Cooper and his office negotiated as part of the permit approval process in 2017 and 2018.

In a 2019 report to the General Assembly, a private investigative firm found that in late 2017 and into early 2018, Cooper, affected the outcome and process of matters concerning the pipeline by controlling the permitting process, negotiating the mitigation fund, creating a settlement agreement with solar energy partners.

Simultaneously, according to CNBC, Berkshire Hathaway is spending $4 billion to buy the natural gas transmission and storage assets of Dominion Energy. Including the assumption of debt, the deal totals almost $10 billion.

The report says for Dominion, the move is one of a series it is taking to transition to a pure-play regulated utility company that focuses on energy production from wind, solar and natural gas. Following the sale, Dominion expects that 90% of its future operating earnings will come from its utility companies that provide energy to more than 7 million customers in states like Virginia, North and South Carolina, Ohio and Utah.