The last twinkle of Fourth of July fireworks had barely faded from the television screens of a quarantined America when the country learned that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project, a key element in plans for its growing energy infrastructure, would be canceled.
How could this have happened? ACP, a joint project of Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, was as all-American as an industrial project can get. It possessed the American fondness for size: final cost estimate of $8 billion; length of 600 miles from West Virginia through Virginia to eastern North Carolina; and diameter of 42 inches (36 inches in North Carolina), allowing it to move about 1.5 Bcf/d of Marcellus Shale natural gas to generate electricity, and heat homes and businesses.
There was the love of money: communities along the route would collect as much as $30 million per year in property taxes, and electricity consumers in those three states would save about $377 million per year in energy costs.
And there was our workaholic nature: the economic activity from the pipeline would support an estimated 17,000 jobs—no small thing at any time but especially needed during a recession. Presumably, those workers would at some point dine on hot dogs and apple pie as well. The only element of Americana missing from ACP was the rocket’s red glare (due to the need to keep it a safe distance from the natural gas it would be transporting).
And then, with the sudden click on the “send” button for a press release, it was gone. This, despite $3.6 billion having been pumped into the project in the last six years. This, despite a 7-2 decision just three weeks earlier from the U.S. Supreme Court allowing the pipeline to cross below the Appalachian Trail. The anticipated litigation had injected so much financial uncertainty into the project that the economics no longer made sense and the partners called it quits.