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“these companies are gambling with ratepayer money in order to build their $5 to $6 billion project on which pipeline developers will receive a lucrative 14-15 percent rate of return.” Leopold says that the ACP has


negotiated a rate of return with FERC on the project, but she’s not revealing what the rate is. She did say that a blanket statement saying all pipelines are guaran- teed a certain rate, such as 14 percent, is incorrect. “Until the construction is done, we won’t even know what it is. So it’s not fixed that way.” In its most recent long-term strategic


plan filed with the SCC, Dominion says that it expects wholesale and retail cus- tomer energy sales to grow at annual rates of 1.2 percent and 1.3 percent respec- tively, over the 25-year planning period. Based on an earlier study it commis-


sioned, SELC says demand forecasts will be level or declining through 2030 and that existing pipelines can supply enough fuel. PJM’s peak demand forecast for Dominion for 2017 is 1,251 megawatts less than in 2016. Dominion says that revisions to PJM’s load forecasting model and the lack of market specifics such as Virginia’s new data center growth, account for the lower number.


Water quality One of the most intense skirmishes


focuses on water quality. In late June, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced that it was expanding its review of both the ACP and the MVP pipelines in areas not covered by a blanket permit used by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps’ purview assesses work on utility projects that cross streams and wetlands. So in addition to what is known as


the Corps’ Nationwide Permit 12, Virginia will require additional conditions for ero- sion and sediment control. DEQ’s action came after Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition and other groups opposed to the ACP filed suit against the agency. The coalition challenged DEQ’s decision to allow the Corps’ blanket permit to be the authority for protecting the state’s water quality in areas near stream and wetlands crossings. “Areas in and around these streams are some of the most damaging, risky places to be digging, boring and


blasting, which they will be doing,” says David Sligh, a spokesman for the coalition and a former DEQ senior engineer. He is not appeased by the schedule of


public hearings in August to give citizens a chance to comment on DEQ’s proposed water quality certification of each pipeline project under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. DEQ’s announcement “essen- tially portends that the state is somehow doing more than they are required to do. That’s simply not true,” says Sligh. “They are still proposing to do far less than is necessary for our water quality, and they’re choosing to continue to rely on the Corps of Engineers blanket permit, which is completely inadequate.” Pressure from environmental groups


on water quality is not surprising. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation recently refused to grant a water permit for the 125-mile Constitu- tion Pipeline, effectively halting the project. The $925 million pipeline had received approval from FERC and permits from the state of Pennsylvania. The pipe- line’s developer is fighting the state’s action in an appeals court.


Governor’s assurances Gov. McAuliffe, who supports the


ACP, is comfortable with DEQ’s plan. He tells Virginia Business that DEQ will require ACP and MVP pipeline develop- ers to submit detailed erosion and sedi- ment control plans “for every foot of land disturbance, and these plans must protect water quality during and after construc- tion. The plans will be posted for public review, and DEQ will hire inspectors to oversee the construction process to ensure compliance.” A final decision on certification will


be made at a public meeting of the State Water Control Board. Despite the intense debate and threats


of more litigation should the pipeline be approved, the governor is not backing away from his support. “Many businesses need access to natural gas to support manufacturing processes. Hampton Roads is a natural gas-constrained region that has seen some economic development activities stunted because of this constraint. If we are going to grow our economy, we need to continue to build and expand our energy infrastructure.”


      


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