RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Purchase agreements have been signed for virtually all of the natural gas that would be delivered to the Southeast by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the lead energy company behind the $5 billion project said Tuesday.
Diane Leopold, president of Dominion Energy Inc., said the utility agreements reflect the need for the nearly 600-mile energy project delivering fracked natural gas along a route from West Virginia, through Virginia and into North Carolina.
Leopold said the pipeline would feed a growing hunger for a cleaner fuel as the nation moves away from coal-fired energy, the leading source of carbon dioxide pollution linked to climate change.
Purchase agreements are in place for 96 percent of the pipeline's capacity, Leopold said.
Dominion, which is partnering with Duke Energy and other energy companies to build the pipeline, outlined the status of the project on several fronts during a conference call:
— In the past 18 months, 450 miles of the pipeline's route has been surveyed. Dominion evaluated more than 6,000 miles along the project's path before settling on the final proposed route.
— More than 90 percent of the 2,800 landowners along the pipeline's path have allowed survey teams on their land and 500 have signed easements.
— A mill in Pennsylvania will begin the manufacture in a few weeks of steel pipe for the project under a $400 million contract.
— The pipeline has an in-service date of late 2018.
The pipeline, one of two multibillion-dollar natural gas projects that would crisscross the state, has broad political support and the backing of governors in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. But it has found organized resistance among some landowners and conservation groups concerned about its impact on rural, forested landscapes.
In February, Dominion carved a new proposed route through parts of West Virginia and Virginia in response to federal concerns about the pipeline's path through sensitive national forest areas. The alternate route reduced by one-third the pipeline's footprint through the George Washington and Monongahela national forests, but added 30 miles to its route.
Dominion is awaiting approval from the U.S. Forest Service to begin surveys in the national forests.
The new route added about 250 landowners to the pipeline's path. In Bath County, which was not on the original route, more than 60 percent of landowners have agreed to let survey teams on the properties, said Leslie Hartz, vice president of construction for Dominion Energy .
"Our goal is to work with the landowners," said Leslie Hartz, vice president of construction for Dominion Energy. "However, if the landowners are firm in their denial of access, we will proceed as we have with the required court actions."
Most recently, a judge in Augusta County cleared the way for crews to survey the land of 16 property owners who had turned them away.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has final say on interstate pipelines.