Federal appeals court rulings put brakes on 2 pipeline projects

Denise Lavoie | 8/9/2018, 6 a.m.
A federal appeals court in Richmond on Monday threw out two key permits for the Atlantic Coast pipeline, a ruling ...

In a footnote, the 4th Circuit said the Federal Energy Commission’s authorization for the pipeline to begin construction is conditioned on valid permits from both the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. “Absent such authorizations, ACP, should it continue to proceed with construction, would violate FERC’S certificate of public convenience and necessity,” reads the footnote.

Monday’s ruling was the second setback in recent days for a natural gas pipeline planned for the region. Last week, federal regulators ordered a halt to construction of a 300-mile pipeline on a swath of national forest following a ruling by the 4th Circuit.

In a letter Friday to Mountain Valley Pipeline officials, the Federal Energy Commission said the company failed to obtain rights-of-way or temporary use permits needed for the pipeline to cross federally owned lands since the court canceled permits the previous week. The letter said construction “must cease immediately” on the pipeline, which would run through Virginia and West Virginia.

“There is no right way to build these dirty, dangerous fossil fuel projects, and people in Virginia and across the country will continue to come together to fight them until they are permanently halted,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

Developers of the pipelines say they will help utilities transition away from coal, create jobs and boost the economy.

A federal appeals court in Richmond has thrown out two key permits for the Atlantic Coast pipeline.

Environmental groups said the ruling Monday by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means construction should be halted on the 600-mile natural gas pipeline.

The judges said a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit was “arbitrary and capricious” because it provided no specific limits for the allowable impact on five threatened or endangered species.

They also vacated a right-of-way permit from the U.S. National Park Service because it allows the pipeline to pass underneath the Blue Ridge Parkway without explaining how the project would not be inconsistent with the scenic parkway.

Dominion Energy said it will work with the agencies to resolve the court’s concerns and “reinstate our permits as soon as possible.”