Despite final state approval, pipeline opponents remain motivated

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — After Virginia regulators approved engineering plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline last week — thereby granting final permission needed from the state for developers to begin construction — opposition to the project continues among environmental groups.

The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced on Friday a state-level water quality permit could take effect. It was approved last December, pending additional studies.

A small group, representing a larger opposition movement, gathered in Augusta County on Sunday.

"To show folks that it's not a done deal," Ben Cunningham, Pipeline CSI's Virginia field coordinator, said. "The state and the developers would like us to think so. But it's simply not the case."

The latest development for opponents of the pipeline is a traveling art display. A sculpture, representing anti-pipeline views, was placed at the Stuarts Draft Farm Market.

The 600-mile pipeline is planned to run behind the owner Virginia Davis' property.

"Of course I'm not happy about it," Davis said.

Despite assurance from developers the project will be completed safely, Davis said she remains concerned after surveyors visited her property.

"If they are all on the up and up, and everything is going to be fine, if they can't even survey and they can't even take pictures, how are we going to be able to feel safe with them building this four-foot pipeline" Davis asked.

Dominion Energy has repeatedly stated the project, which would transport natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina, would produce jobs and lead to a cleaner environment overall.

"The agency’s process was the most sweeping and rigorous regulatory review of any energy infrastructure project in Virginia history," said company spokesperson Aaron Ruby. "We’ve put in place some of the strongest environmental protections ever used by the industry to keep soil and sediment out of our streams and rivers during construction."

Ruby said developers now await a Notice to Proceed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Tree felling for the project in Virginia began in early 2018.

In September, a federal appeals court halted work on the pipeline through stretches of national forest land.