The pipeline raises numerous environmental concerns. Its construction and operation would disturb thousands of acres in Virginia (see map of the proposed route below). Its expected destruction of forests and disturbance of other sensitive lands will diminish the ability of these vital regions to filter water, clean the air, and provide other essential environmental services. Furthermore, much of the route traverses rugged terrain, steep slopes, and fragile karst geology. Construction would involve massive trenching and in-stream blasting at stream crossings, which threatens to increase sediment and nutrient pollution in local streams and the Bay.
A major concern is the proposed Buckingham Compressor Station to help gas flow through the pipeline, slated to be built in the rural and historically black community of Union Hill. The siting of the facility has raised serious environmental justice issues, as it could jeopardize the health of the many nearby residents who live less than a mile from the site. Emissions from the compressor station would also add a new source of pollution to waterways and contribute to climate change.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction and operation must be held to strict environmental standards to ensure that Virginia's waterways are protected. CBF is taking part in numerous lawsuits fighting threats to clean water from the pipeline project and the Buckingham compressor station. For years, CBF has also urged state and federal officials to use their full authority to protect waterways affected by the pipeline.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is an extensive interstate natural gas pipeline complex proposed by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy Corporation, Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc., and Southern Company Gas. As proposed by its owners, it would consist of two main pipeline facilities, three pipeline laterals, three new compressor stations and other infrastructure capable of delivering up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to customers in Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia.
Construction of new interstate pipelines is regulated by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). As part of its review process, FERC prepares an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act as well as Virginia law, DEQ must certify that the proposed project will comply with state water quality standards.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Proposed Route
Zoom in to view forest loss and access roads
CBF, like numerous organizations across Virginia, has forcefully expressed its concerns about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Actions taken by CBF to date include:
- April 2015: CBF submits comments to FERC on several issues to be considered during the development of the pipeline's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Comments included the recommendation that the EIS require any new pollution to local waterways to be offset pursuant to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
- June 2016: CBF submits a second set of scoping comments to the FERC in response to the release of proposed route changes and other modifications to the proposed pipeline, reemphasizing the need to address the concerns raised in our April 2015 comments.
- December 2016: FERC issues its Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
- April 2017: CBF submits comments to FERC on the Draft EIS. CBF's analysis of the Draft EIS demonstrated that it failed adequately to address the proposed project's significant threats to wetlands, concerns about water quality impacts from sedimentation, and anticipated NOx emissions from the pipeline compressor stations which will ultimately deposit nitrogen to waterways. CBF urges FERC to correct these deficiencies in the final EIS.
- June 2017: CBF and 75 other conservation and advocacy groups sign on to a letter to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and DEQ urging the Commonwealth to conduct an appropriate 401 certification analysis. This Southern Environmental Law Center press release included a statement from CBF.
- July 2017: FERC issues its final EIS.
- August 2017: CBF submits comments to DEQ on its draft section 401 water quality certification.
- October 2017: SELC and CBF submit joint comments to DEQ on Atlantic Coast Pipeline plans for erosion and sediment control/stormwater pollution prevention.
- October 2017: Five conservation groups, including CBF, send a letter to the Virginia State Water Control Board urging it to exercise its authority and refuse certification of the pipeline.
- November 2017: CBF, SELC, and 19 other organizations and individuals file a petition with FERC asking it to reconsider approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
- December 2017: CBF speaks at Virginia's State Water Control Board hearing asking the board to reject water quality certification. The Board nonetheless votes to approve water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but to delay its effective date until plans for addressing threats from stormwater pollution, erosion, and sediment control are reviewed and approved by the Department of Environmental Quality.
- January 2018: CBF files an appeal of the Virginia State Water Control Board's water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
March 2018: After Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) construction began in Virginia over the winter with cutting thousands of trees, on March 16 DEQ issues a notice of violation for illegal work along streams and wetlands. ACP asks FERC for permission to extend its tree cutting work by two months, until May 15, jeopardizing sensitive bird species. CBF files comments with FERC opposing that extension and on March 28 FERC denied the extension.
April 2018: In a positive step, the Virginia State Water Control Board votes to reopen a public comment period on water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. DEQ subsequently announces a public comment period that ran from April 30 to May 30.
- June 2018: CBF submits comments to the State Water Control Board urging the Board to withdraw the water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
- August 2018: CBF joins a legal challenge to FERC's approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
- August 2018: CBF speaks at a Water Control Board Meeting, asking the board to revoke the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's water quality certification. Unfortunately,the Board approves certification that CBF believes is inadequate to protect waterways from pollution.
- September 2018: CBF submits comments to the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board opposing the draft permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's proposed natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County, Virginia.
- September 2018: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond hears oral arguments in a challenge to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's water quality certification by CBF and other conservation organizations.
- November 2018: The Wilmington, North Carolina, district of the Army Corps of Engineers suspended its issuance of a nationwide general permit to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for construction. The decision was in response to a ruling in the Fourth Circuit (a different case than the one above) casting doubt on the validity of the permit in West Virginia. Recognizing that the pipeline is part of a project that runs from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina, the Corps suspended the permit for the entire length of the pipeline.
- December 2018: The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board postponed a decision on the permit for the Buckingham Compressor Station in order to take additional public comment.
- January 2019: The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board approved the permit for the Buckingham Compressor Station by a 4-0 vote.
- February 2019: CBF, together with SELC and Friends of Buckingham, files a lawsuit challenging Air Board approval of the Buckingham Compressor Station in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.