The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a vote for the future

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a step toward energy independence, good jobs, and lower energy prices for all Americans.

The proposed 600-mile natural gas pipeline that will run from West Virginia, though Virginia, to its destination in North Carolina, is now the most-reviewed energy project in Virginia history, but it’s making steady progress. In September, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission re-issued authorization for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in response to a court challenge, and in October the ACP received authorization from the Commonwealth of Virginia to begin construction.

The ACP’s latest challenge will be defeating the suspension of the Army Corps of Engineers authorization to cross hundreds of waterways and wetlands so it can begin construction.

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The ACP will create over 17,000 construction jobs, and 2,200 new jobs at the pipeline’s four transmission stations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates the pipeline’s construction phase will generate $2.7 billion in total economic activity and $4.2 million of average annual local tax revenue; after construction is complete, the 2,200 new jobs will generate $65.1 million total economic activity and $28 million in average annual local tax revenue.

Pipeline critics have called the construction jobs “temporary,” neglecting to mention that all construction jobs are temporary, but on the critics’ side their jobs look pretty comfortable. The Executive Director of the Sierra Club makes well over $250,000 per year. The President of the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) makes over $350,000 per year; the median household income in the SELC’s home of Albermarle County, Virginia is $70,342.

We should never disparage someone’s financial success, but these one-percenters shouldn’t be pulling up the ladder on the 19,000 men and women who will be employed by the ACP, nor on those who will find jobs in the future as a result of the new supply of secure energy.

Environmentalists just can’t admit they won: America’s carbon emissions have been generally declining for the past decade, thanks in part to “substitution from coal to natural gas consumption in the electric power sector,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

But the pipeline’s critics see natural gas as a way-station on the path to an economy based on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy. But renewables, which rely on intermittent phenomena, like windy or sunny days, are decades away even if government subsidies are available and space can be found for all those wind and solar farms. (Electric power producer Entergy compared the land required to produce the same solar and wind energy as an 1,800 Megawatt nuclear power station: nuclear - 1100 acres; solar - 13,200 acres; wind – 108,000 acres.)

One admission you won’t wring from the green lobby is that one of America’s marquee solar projects, the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in the Mojave Desert (which received a $1.6 billion loan from America’s taxpayers) relies on natural gas as a supplementary fuel and needs it to jump-start operations every morning.

Even Saudi Arabia is having trouble making a go of solar, and if you can’t scale solar in the desert kingdom…

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Harvesting America’s natural gas (and imports by pipeline from Canada and Mexico) has contributed to a decline of imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and has relieved traffic near our busy seaports and calmed local concerns about the safety of LNG tankers which are considered attractive targets for terrorists.

Increased use of natural gas will probably come at the expense of coal, which has been linked to “asthma, cancer, heart and lung ailments, neurological problems, acid rain, global warming, and other severe environmental and public health impacts” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. And toxic waste from coal-fired power plants has been shown to contaminate nearby sources of drinking water.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s critics probably believe much of what they say, but there’s also a fair dose of NIMBY at play. Despite the alternative routes offered by Dominion Power, the project’s lead partner, an objection always surfaces with the reliability of sunrise: the pipeline is to close to a resort, or the habitat of the Cow Knob Salamander, or even the "spiritual community" of Yogaville.

Maybe its time to flip the script and for Washington, D.C. to call out NIMBY America. The nation’s capital is home to an extensive natural gas pipeline and storage network, ditto the Big Apple, and the economy and home prices aren’t suffering.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a vote for a future where the region’s future energy needs are safely satisfied with a clean, reliable fuel. Let’s not mortgage our future on yesterday’s polluting energy mix.

James Durso (@james_durso) is the Managing Director of Corsair LLC, a supply chain consultancy. He was a professional staff member at the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Durso served as a U.S. Navy officer for 20 years and specialized in logistics and security assistance. His overseas military postings were in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and he served in Iraq as a civilian transport advisor with the Coalition Provisional Authority.  He served afloat as Supply Officer of the submarine USS SKATE (SSN 578).