Four energy partners formally asked the federal government on Friday for permission to build a 564-mile natural gas pipeline in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.
The 348-page application was submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
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The $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline is intended to deliver cleaner burning natural gas to the Southeast as utilities move away from coal-burning power plants amid tighter federal rules on pollution that contributes to climate change.
Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion Resources Inc. and Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy would have 45 percent and 40 percent ownership stakes in the pipeline, respectively. Charlotte-based Piedmont Natural Gas would have a 10 percent ownership and Atlanta-based AGL Resources, 5 percent.
The pipeline would carry natural gas from Marcellus shale drilling in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Southeast. It would run from Harrison County, West Virginia, southeast to Greensville County, Virginia, and into North Carolina.
The pipeline has the backing of the governors of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia for its job creation and economic development. A coalition of environmental and conservation groups oppose the plan.
The proposed route would carve a swath through national forests in Virginia and West Virginia, raising concerns from landowners and the U.S. Forest Service.
The extensive application includes environmental resource reports and exhibits that Dominion says stacks more than 10 feet tall. The company said the project considered more than 3,000 miles of potential routes and, based on more than 60 public meetings and talks with public officials and landowners, made hundreds of route adjustments.
Dominion said surveys are complete on about 85 percent of the proposed route and, upon completion, will file supplemental information and propose a final route.
"The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is essential to meeting the clean energy needs of Virginia and North Carolina, and has significant benefits for West Virginia as well," Dominion Energy President Diane Leopold said in a statement. "We are committed to excellence in every aspect of this important project. We will continue to work with landowners, government and community leaders, regulators and others to address concerns and refine the project."
Federal regulators must examine factors including public safety, air quality, water resources, threatened and endangered species, and reasonable alternatives.
Pending regulatory approval, construction would begin in the second half of 2016, and the pipeline is expected to be in service in the fourth quarter of 2018. Dominion's transmission subsidiary would oversee the project's construction, operation and facility maintenance.
A study commissioned by Dominion concludes the pipeline's construction could have a total economic impact of $2.7 billion in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia.