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How Did the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project Collapse?

View of proposed pipeline at Back Creek, Lantz Mountain.
Back Creek, Lantz Mountain. (Photo: Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition)

What is the business backstory behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project?

When the U.S. Supreme Court in June effectively cleared the way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the controversial $8 billion, multi-state project’s completion was viewed as inevitable. But less than a month later, utility giants Dominion Energy and Duke Energy pulled out of the 600-mile pipeline—handing a big win to the coalition of environmentalists and community organizers that spent years fighting the fossil fuel project. 

This week, host Roben Farzad welcomes Sarah Vogelsong, environment and energy reporter for the Virginia Mercury; and Richard Walker, Founder and CEO of Bridging the Gap in Virginia as they dive into Virginia's battle for energy. 

 

Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court previously cleared the way for a new pipeline, sections of which were to be run through Virginia. (Photo: Whittney Evans/VPM)

“When I found out the intricacies of what was going on with this project and how Dominion was coming in and trying to buy people's land from them, dangling a carrot of money to other folks to get them to convince the community that the pipeline is good for Union Hill, and then going to the county supervisor meetings where they were voting unanimously to take the money from Dominion. All of that just started brewing up in my spirit. I didn't like it, so I knew I had to be a part of this fight.” -Richard Walker, CEO and member of the historically black community, Union Hill in Buckingham County where Dominion planned to build a compressor station. 

Later in the show: Roben talks with Mina Kimes, award-winning journalist and NFL analyst for ESPN as she discusses her journey from Fortune Magazine to football stadiums.  

Episode Excerpt

The following excerpt was edited for clarity. 

[2:21]

Roben Farzad: What about the pronounced shift to renewables? The democrats chances in November? More state legislatures throwing incentives at wind and solar?

Sarah Vogelsong: I absolutely think that political effect towards renewables has been a factor in this decision. Not only the decision to end the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but also Dominion’s decision to sell its transmission and storage assets. In Virginia, the big energy legislation for the last session, the Virginia Clean Economy Act that just passed, not only commits the state to making its electric grid 100% renewable by 2050, but it gives a mandate to the utilities. In particularly Dominion, to build a lot of that infrastructure out, and it's a lot of infrastructure. It's 16,000 megawatts of solar, now we only have a couple of hundred megawatts that are actually installed and up and running. It's 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind, which is far more than the US even has now. It's storage, it's onshore wind. All of these things can be huge revenue streams for utilities. So even though dominion is walking away from natural gas, they do have a replacement waiting in the wings and they are expecting to make quite a bit of money off of these investments. 

 

Listen Fridays at 2 p.m. on VPM News, 88.9 FM. The show reairs Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m. and is available wherever you get your podcasts.