Anti-pipeline group reacts to federal approval of Atlantic Coast Pipeline

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NELSON COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one step closer to becoming a reality in Central Virginia.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave a conditional approval for the project Friday night.

While the project still has a few hurdles to clear, anti-pipeline activists said they are not backing down.

"The decision was expected, the timing was not,” said Ernie Reed, Friends of Nelson president.

The decision to allow the project to move forward hits close to home for Reed.

"It's terrible because it's not necessary," said Reed. "It’s only being built because Dominion and Duke Energy will make $2 billion off of it even if it never comes into service."

Dominion Energy said construction could begin at the end of this year as long as the project is cleared by other state departments in Virginia, like the Department of Environmental Quality.

"This is also really important for consumers in Virginia, for our environment, and economy,” said Aaron Ruby, a Dominion spokesman.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run nearly 600 miles from West Virginia, through Virginia, and into North Carolina.

Ruby said the project will bring thousands of new jobs and clean energy to the Commonwealth.

"This pipeline is a critical part of our company's clean energy strategy," said Ruby. "It is a part of our company's transition from burning coal to burning cleaner natural gas."

Anti-pipeline groups like Friends of Nelson disagree with that statement, and said the jobs will come from outside of Virginia.

"The jobs to build this pipeline are imported and if you wanted to invest in solar and renewable energy, you would have tens of thousands of jobs in the Commonwealth,” said Reed.

The approval from FERC also gives Dominion the right to use eminent domain if it cannot reach an agreement with the landowner.

Ruby says Dominion will likely not run into that problem.

"It's only used in a relatively small number of cases where we can't reach an agreement with the landowner, and even in those cases, the landowner is fairly compensated for the use of their land,” said Ruby.

Landowners and groups against the pipeline said the fight is not over yet.

"[We will continue] to work with property owners and giving them their support, and making sure state and regulatory agencies and counties do their jobs and stop this thing,” said Reed.

FERC also approved the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, which would run through Southwest Virginia.

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