- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved two new East Coast natural gas pipelines, according to The Hill, a move that will allow the construction process for both to move forward.
- The $3.5 billion Mountain Valley pipeline will extend 300 miles from northern West Virginia to Danville, VA. The 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, estimated at $5 billion, will start in West Virginia and travel through Virginia into eastern North Carolina.
- Pipeline proponents maintain the additional access to natural gas will reduce energy costs and lead to more economic development. Critics of the pipelines argue the projects will harm the environment and will affect the rights of property owners along their paths.
The construction and operation of oil and gas pipelines in the U.S. can be controversial, especially when there is the chance they can have a significant negative impact on the environment. These projects are subject to extensive environmental reviews made even more arduous if members of the public decide to weigh in.
The same is true in Canada, where TransCanada Corp, according to Engineering News-Record, recently scuttled a $12 billion pipeline and cited the "exhaustive federal review process" as the reason, although opposition from environmentalists in Quebec was significant. The company will take a $1 billion charge for the money already spent on planning costs.
In the U.S., protests erupted around the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline's route near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota in April 2016 and lasted until early this year. Lawsuits and warnings about the environmental risk the project posed to the reservation's water supply delayed the project, but a judge ultimately denied requests to stop construction.
However, since the pipeline was completed and put into operation, the Army Corps of Engineers and developer Energy Transfer Partners have been ordered to perform an additional environmental review. This is because the same federal judge who allowed construction to continue amid the protests determined that the Army Corps did not consider the consequences of a spill in its original paperwork. The judge recently decided, according to The Hill, that the pipeline can remain in operation while the additional study moves forward, a decision that reportedly will save pipeline operators from $90 million a month in losses.