Atlantic Coast Pipeline Submits Cleanup Plan

Now that the developers (Dominion) of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have abandoned the project,  all that is left is to repair the disturbance that resulted from the partial pipeline construction.  The developers have filed plans with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission setting out how they plan to do the restoration.

            Disturbance along the 600 mile long pipeline route ranges from none in some parts of the route to pipe installed and permanent restoration completed other places. Approximately 31 miles of pipe were installed and completed.  In another 83 miles there was clearing and grading but no pipe was installed.

Along the route the developers had cut the trees on approximately 222.5 miles of the route; of this approximately 108.4 miles of trees are still lying on the right-of-way where they were cut. 

In places where the pipe has been installed, the plan is to leave it there permanently.  According to Dominion, this is standard practice in the industry.  In its view it would be less destructive to leave the pipe in the ground than it would be to remove it.  In the majority of the right of way agreements, Dominion has the right to leave the abandoned pipes in place.  In those where the right of way agreement does not provide for leaving the pipe in place, all of the landowners have agreed that pipe may be left. The ends of the installed pipe will be capped and buried.  

Dominion also must address the question of what happens to the trees that were cut but have not been removed.  Whether Dominion removes the trees depends in part upon what disturbance would be involved in removing them.  If, for example, removing the trees requires construction of a road the additional disturbance would suggest that leaving the trees would be preferable. 

Dominion is in ongoing discussions with landowners about this.  Many have already agreed that the felled trees may be left.  Dominion is in the process of negotiating with the remaining landowners about whether felled trees will be left.  Many of the trees will be stacked, chipped, or burned.

The status of rights of way agreements remains unsettled.  Many of the agreements were entered into voluntarily.  Others came as a result of vigorously contested eminent domain proceedings.  Now that the pipeline will not be built, landowners have sought release of the right of way agreements.  Dominion has said that it has no plans to release the rights of way agreements.  At the same time, it also says that it has no plans to sell the rights of way to anyone else or make any use of them.

None of the restoration work has begun.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must approve the plan before work may begin.  Completion of the restoration will also require some environmental permits which Dominion has not yet secured.  There must also be a consultation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service about the effect of the restoration work on any endangered species.  Dominion expects the restoration work to take about two years.

The pipe purchased for the pipeline but not installed is currently for sale.