Just over one week ago, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced the cancelation of the Atlantic Coast pipeline (ACP), a natural gas pipeline largely funded by those companies that would transport gas from production sites in West Virginia to power plants in Virginia and North Carolina.
The pipeline has been held up for years due to lawsuits by environmental groups and campaigns to stop the project from receiving government permits. The costs associated with delays and lawsuits pushed the project’s price tag upward and eventually led to the companies surrendering, citing “legal uncertainties.”
While supporters of the pipeline mourned the loss of promised tax revenue and potential jobs, many environmental justice groups cheered that the pipeline would no longer disproportionately impact rural, Native American and African American communities with environmental harms.
Perhaps the largest consequence, and one which everyone should be grateful for, is the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that inevitably would have resulted from burning the natural gas. Without this pipeline, gas will have a harder time competing with cheaper, renewable options, which Dominion and Duke should now focus their resources toward.
Fossil fuel pipelines have been a key issue over the past decade, with the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines both receiving substantial national attention. Both had their permits blocked by the Obama administration before having that decision reversed under Donald Trump. However, this hasn’t stopped environmentalists and many Native American groups from protesting these pipelines.
These groups mostly take issue with the potential for oil spills near critical waterways, such as a recent spill which forced the temporary closure of the Dakota Access pipeline. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has forced Keystone XL to undergo a strenuous environmental review. While that ruling also allowed several other pipelines to go ahead with construction, they may not get very far if their permits are revoked, as Joe Biden has suggested he will do for Keystone.
All of these promising decisions should spur environmental groups to continue to fight the construction of fossil fuel pipelines tooth and nail, as we’ve seen that these tactics can be incredibly effective when used persistently over many years.
Time is the enemy for all of these projects, which continue to rack up costs without delivering any payouts for their companies. While those of us without law degrees or disposable income to donate can’t help much on the lawsuit side, we can vote for leaders who will set a demanding standard for environmental reviews and deny permits for any projects that don’t protect the health of the environment.
Although 2020 has most of us thinking about the next day or week, we can’t forget that, in this decade, we need to make serious progress toward eliminating our carbon footprint, or else risk far worse economic outcomes than the lack of 1,000 hypothetical jobs from a pipeline. Any new fossil fuel infrastructure will set us back by continuing to support the extraction and consumption of dirty fuel sources. Energy companies like Duke and Dominion should take the hint that fossil fuels are economically, as well as environmentally, inviable, and the faster they commit to a serious, 100% renewable energy plan, the faster they’ll be able to get returns on their investments.