Federal court throws out another key pipeline permit

A view captured at sunset along Virginia's Skyline Drive portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. (© Jim Waite)

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today threw out the National Park Service’s permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in a case argued by SELC on behalf of the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Virginia Wilderness Committee. The court also issued its opinion regarding a Fish and Wildlife permit that it vacated earlier.

This is an example of what happens when dangerous projects are pushed through based on politics rather than science,” said SELC Senior Attorney D.J. Gerken. “This pipeline project was flawed from the start and Dominion and Duke’s pressure tactics to avoid laws that protect our public lands, water, and wildlife are now coming to light.”

The ruling entered by a panel of three judges means that Dominion no longer has the permit needed to drill under the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway weaves through some of the most scenic terrain in Virginia and North Carolina.

Now, if pipeline developers continue construction on the 600-mile route from West Virginia, through Virginia and into North Carolina, they will be operating without two crucial federal permits.

Given the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s recent decision to stop construction based on an invalid right of way permit in the case of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, FERC should immediately halt all construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “It’s time to pause and take a look at this project for what it is, an unnecessary pipeline that’s being pushed through to benefit Dominion Energy, not the people of Virginia and North Carolina.  ”

The same day the opinion was issued, SELC submitted a letter calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to halt all construction along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route given it no longer possesses a right-of-way permit from the National Park Service.

It has become clear in recent hearings at the State Corporation Commission that Dominion has never even conducted a study as to whether the pipeline is needed in Virginia. And Dominion’s claims of energy savings are bogus; Virginians will pay $2 billion more for the pipeline than it would if the utility used existing pipelines.

This May, the same three-judge panel found that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval for the project did not comport with the law. The initial order stated that the agency’s limits for harming endangered species were so vague that they undermined the objectives of the Endangered Species Act.

There are other permits in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals under challenge for inadequacy to protect land, water, and wildlife in the path of this risky and unnecessary project.

To learn more about the risks of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline go to inthepath.org.

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