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FERC approves pipeline

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday issued a major approval needed for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to be constructed.

The commission granted a certificate of public need and necessity for the $5 billion project, part of which will run through Suffolk. The decision paves the way for the pipeline to use eminent domain to acquire property for the pipeline if it is unable to acquire an easement by agreement with the landowner.

Dominion Energy Vice President for Engineering and Construction Leslie Hartz said the company is pleased with the approval.

“This is the most significant milestone yet for a project that will bring jobs, economic growth and cleaner energy to our region,” she stated in a press release. “Our public utility customers are depending on this infrastructure to generate cleaner electricity, heat homes and power local businesses. The project will result in a growing economy, a cleaner environment, and lower energy costs for consumers and businesses across the region.”

The project includes 604 miles of new interstate pipeline and related facilities extending from Harrison County, W.Va., to the eastern portions of Virginia and North Carolina.

The route through Suffolk would roughly parallel Route 58 before turning abruptly north and then looping around Lake Meade and south of Lake Prince before turning south again beyond Nansemond Parkway and again paralleling Route 58 and finally skirting the northern edge of the swamp in Suffolk and Chesapeake, where it would reach its proposed terminus near the intersection of I-464 and Military Highway.

The pipeline already has begun acquiring the property it will need in Suffolk.

The commission consists of Chairman Neil Chatterjee and Commissioners Robert F. Powelson and Cheryl A. LaFleur.

LaFleur was the only vote against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. She wrote in her dissent that she did not feel there was a need for both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which was also heard on Friday.

The two projects are in the same region, have some segments in close proximity and are delivering natural gas from the same location to some common markets, she wrote. However, proposals to combine the projects — resulting in less mileage than the combined total of separate projects — were rejected, in part due to the delay in completing the project that would be necessitated by a revised proposal, LaFleur wrote.

“I acknowledge that if the applicants were to adopt an alternative solution, it would require considerable additional work and time,” she wrote. “However, the decision before the commission is simply whether to approve or reject these projects, which will be in place for decades. Given the environmental impacts and possible superior alternatives, approving these two pipeline projects on this record is not a decision I can support.”