Report commissioned by companies touts proposed W.Va., Va. and NC natural gas pipeline

A proposed $5 billion pipeline to deliver natural gas to the Southeast would lower customer energy bills and increase employment in Virginia and North Carolina, according to a study, released Wednesday, that was commissioned by the companies partnering on the project.

The 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would run through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina is a joint venture between Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources. If approved by federal regulators, the pipeline is expected to be in service by late 2018.

According to the study by consulting firm ICF International, customers in Virginia and North Carolina could save about $377 million annually in lower energy costs. Based on the number of customers in the two states, the annual savings would average $44 per year but the exact amount would vary by energy usage and whether it's a residential or business customer.

Those lower costs could spur more than 2,200 jobs in the two states combined because businesses would have more money to invest and consumers would have extra income to spend, the study suggests.

Overall, the analysis says Virginia and North Carolina also could expect an impact of $131 million in average annual labor income and $23 million in average annual state tax revenue.

An earlier commissioned study said construction activity related to building the pipeline could yield an annual average of $456 million into the combined economies of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Construction would also support more than 2,870 annual jobs from 2014 to 2019, it said.

The proposed pipeline is finding pockets of opposition along its planned path. It also is seeing resistance in remote high-elevation sections of Virginia amid concerns it would traverse an environmentally sensitive landscape. Some landowners also object to plans for the pipeline to dissect their property.