Federal court throws out key Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit
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 the Southern Environmental Law Center 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 Southern Environmental Law Center attorney DJ 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 if ACP developers continue construction on the 600-mile route from West Virginia, through Virginia and in 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.”
SELC is calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to halt all construction along the ACP 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 so much as conducted a study as to whether the ACP is needed in Virginia. And Dominion’s claims of energy savings are bogus. Virginians will pay $2 billion more for the ACP than it would if the utility used existing pipelines.
“Once again, the corporate polluters behind the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines have been stopped from running fracked gas pipelines roughshod through our communities, our forests, and our neighborhoods. 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.
On May 15, 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 indeterminate that they undermined the objectives of the Endangered Species Act.
“It’s past time Dominion and Duke stopped putting profits over people and wildlife,” said Jason Rylander, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “This unnecessary and unneeded project should never have begun, but we are very glad the court has recognized the need to ensure appropriate protection for wildlife and their habitat.”
“This order serves notice that Virginia’s most pristine rivers and forest land as well as the plants and animals that inhabit these lands are protected. They are not for sale to the highest bidder,” said Mark Miller, Executive Director of the Virginia Wilderness Committee.