Virginia regulators have cleared the way for construction to begin in that state on the $6.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline - owned by Dominion Energy Inc. (NYSE: D), Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) and Southern Co. (NYSE: SO)
The 600-mile pipeline is designed to transport shale gas from West Virginia to southeast Virginia and eastern North Carolina. Construction has already began in West Virginia and North Carolina.
"With this final state approval for pipeline construction in place, we are requesting a Notice to Proceed with full construction in Virginia from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission," says Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for Dominion Energy Transmission Inc., which is building the joint venture.
That final approval from FERC is expected shortly.
That will mean construction of the pipeline will essentially be allowed all along the route, except for 21 miles in Virginia where the project runs through the George Washington and Monongahela national forests. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a stay of construction in those areas as it considers a challenge from environmental groups on special-use permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service to build the pipeline through the national forests.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on Friday issued sedimentation control and stormwater management permits for the pipeline.
Matthew Strickler, Virginia's secretary of natural resources, says in a prepared statement that VDEQ's "comprehensive review allows us to remain confident that these final construction plans will protect natural resources."
"After more than a year of detailed analysis, all aspects of these plans have been carefully reviewed, modified, and intensified before being approved by DEQ," Strickler says. "We understand the pipeline projects have raised concerns. We remain dedicated to holding them to the highest environmental standards possible pursuant to state authorities."
Opponents, though, were unimpressed.
"The certification comes even as evidence mounts in Southwest Virginia that state regulations did little to keep communities safe from the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has clogged some of our state's cleanest waters with mud and sediment as crews trenched across steep, rugged, flash flood-prone terrain," says a statement issued by the state's League of Conservation Voters.