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Virginia gives Dominion permit for Atlantic Coast natgas pipe compressor

(Reuters) - An environmental board in Virginia unanimously approved an air permit for a compressor station for Dominion Energy Inc's planned nearly $7 billion Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina.

The fight over the permit was just one of several battles Atlantic Coast and other pipelines are facing to move gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to customers in the U.S. Southeast.

There are two big gas pipes under construction in Virginia - Atlantic Coast and EQM Midstream Partners LP's Mountain

Valley project. Both are at least $1 billion over budget and about a year behind schedule due primarily to legal battles with  environmental and local groups opposed to the projects.

"While the (compressor) approval process has concluded, we know we have to continue building trust in the community," Karl Neddenien, spokesman for Atlantic Coast said in an email, noting the company will invest in a new community center, a rescue squad and more. In December, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board delayed a vote on the compressor over concerns it would violate civil rights by forcing the historically African-American Union Hill community to bear an unequal burden from pollution and  other disruptions.

In addition to the compressor permit, Dominion has been dealing with legal battles over other state and federal permits. In early December, Dominion suspended all construction on Atlantic Coast after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stayed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Incidental Take Statement, which authorized pipeline construction in areas
inhabited by threatened or endangered species.

Neddenien said construction of the 600-mile (966-km) project remains on hold pending clarification of the scope of the Fish and Wildlife permit stay.

Before the court issued the stay, Dominion said it expected to complete Atlantic Coast in mid-2020. Now, however, the company said it was waiting for the outcome of its request for clarification before offering any update on the project's schedule or cost.

Analysts at Height Capital Markets in Washington, D.C., said in a report that they do not expect Atlantic Coast to enter service until the fourth quarter of 2020, assuming the utilities remain committed to the project.

Atlantic Coast, which is designed to carry 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of gas, is a partnership between units of Dominion, Duke Energy Corp and Southern Co.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


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