Another regulatory victim

Another regulatory victim

Word out of Richmond, Va., is that the developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline say they are canceling the multi-state natural gas project, citing delays and increasing cost uncertainty.

Onerous regulations played no small part in the decision.

The $8 billion project would have traversed neighboring West Virginia (from south of the Pennsylvania state line in Harrison County, W.Va.), through Virginia and into eastern North Carolina. As developer Dominion Energy and Duke Energy put it, the pipeline scuttling “reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States.

“Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged,” Dominion CEO Tom Farrell and Duke CEO Lynn Good said in a joint statement.

And all that despite a recent major win before the U.S. Supreme Court in a critical permitting challenge.

Ecocrats, of course, wanted nothing to do with the project. Aside from the usual talking points of supposedly damaged vistas and wildlife harm, they question, as one news account put it, “whether there was sufficient need for the gas it would carry and said it would further encourage the use of a fossil fuel at a time when climate change makes a shift to renewable energy imperative.”

For the record, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy concludes (as reported by Robert Rapier in Sunday’s Forbes.com) that, and despite a significant glut that has depressed prices, natural gas remains not only the cleanest but the fastest growing fossil fuel with a global annual growth rate of 2.6 percent over the last decade.

The report says natural gas is projected to be the only fossil fuel that will see substantial demand in growth over the next two decades.

Opponents, of course, favor the heavily taxpayer-subsidized solar and wind cartel.

Oh, and never mind that, as various sources have noted, the pipeline, a major move to build out woefully inadequate pipeline capacity, was projected to create short- and long-term jobs (i.e., construction and off-shoot heavy manufacturing), escalate the transition away from far-dirtier coal and lower consumer energy costs.

That’s unlike solar and wind, whose government-mandated mix into the grid has raised consumer costs.

A statement from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce nailed the fundamental issue:

“Unfortunately, (the) announcement detrimentally impacts the commonwealth’s access to affordable, reliable energy. It also demonstrates the significant regulatory burdens businesses must deal with in order to operate.”

Ah, regulatory burdens.

As news accounts note, those continual legal challenges – that kept multiplying the regulatory hoops — led to an extended construction delay that put the Atlantic Coast Pipeline years behind schedule and inflated the pipeline’s original estimated cost of $4.5 billion to $5 billion.

It was five years ago that a group called the “Regulatory Transparency Project” reminded that “Ultimately someone must tend to the regulatory garden, or else it will grow all the more unmanageable.

“For that matter, the thicket is already unwieldy.”

Sadly, the regulatory weeds just keep growing and bona fide reformers can’t pick them fast enough to get ahead. Meanwhile, back in the real world, bona fide progress and economic growth suffer.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).