Pipeline construction stopped

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently halted construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, in part because developers' permit application hadn't adequately considered the impacts of building the pipeline across the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. (© Robert Llewellyn)

The federal government has ordered Dominion and Duke Energy to stop all construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The decision comes on the heels of another stop-work order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is also traversing a similar route from West Virginia into Virginia.

FERC issued the decision after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond threw out another key permit of Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers, this time the National Park Service permit. The court found the agency’s decision to award a permit to pipeline developers that would allow them to construct under the Blue Ridge Parkway was “arbitrary and capricious.” It used the same language to describe the Fish and Wildlife permit, which the court also tossed out.

The court’s decision exemplifies the problems we have known to be true of this pipeline all along. Permits were rushed and made with politics, not science, in mind,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “This is equally true of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has refused to look at the facts  demonstrating a lack of market demand for this pipeline and the self-serving nature of the contracts that Dominion signed with its affiliates.”

Also last week, FERC finally issued a decision to deny SELC’s request for a rehearing of its original approval of the project. This decision was expected and allows SELC and our clients and partners to challenge the FERC permit in court. . The order was accompanied by a strong dissent from Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur who wrote:

I believe finding a project is in the public interest requires thoughtful review and consideration of all environmental impacts, and that could very well mean deciding not to authorize certain projects based on their environmental impacts.”

There are two additional cases pending before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that address the pipeline’s permits from the National Forest Service and the Virginia State Water Control Board. Both cases will be argued at the end of September.

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