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FERC halts construction work on Atlantic Coast pipeline following court order

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FERC halts construction work on Atlantic Coast pipeline following court order

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC to stop construction work on its 1.5-Bcf/d natural gas pipeline project and the related Supply Header project after a U.S. appeals court vacated a right-of-way permit from the U.S. National Park Service.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit on Aug. 6 canceled the permit allowing construction on the Atlantic Coast project across the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. In the same decision, the court explained an earlier order vacating an incidental take statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit dockets 18-1082, 18-1083)

Atlantic Coast has not yet secured the necessary rights-of-way and temporary use permits from the National Park Service and failed to obtain another incidental take statement for the project from the Fish and Wildlife Service, FERC staff said in an Aug. 10 statement.

While both agencies are likely to issue new permits under the court's requirements, FERC said they "cannot predict when [the National Park Service or Fish and Wildlife Service] may act or whether the [National Park Service] will ultimately approve the same route." In this case, Atlantic Coast may be required to change the pipeline route, which would require more authorizations and further environmental review. The construction halt would also save resources and mitigate environmental impacts in case facilities would have to be relocated or abandoned in case of route changes.

Dominion Energy Inc. unit Dominion Energy Transmission Inc. earlier told FERC that construction should continue despite the court vacating the permit, as they expect the National Park Service to quickly issue a new permit that would address the court's concerns without altering the current route.

FERC also required Atlantic Coast and Dominion Energy Transmission to provide an interim right-of-way and work area stabilization plan in five days. The 600-mile Atlantic Coast pipeline is designed to carry Appalachian gas to mid-Atlantic and Southern markets, running from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina. The project is a joint venture of Dominion, Duke Energy Corp. and Southern Co. (FERC dockets CP15-554-000, CP15-554-001, CP15-555-000)