Court Vacates Another ACP Permit
In a victory for opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, on Friday, July 26th, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Services permit issued to Dominion and Duke Energy. The Court found that the permit failed to protect endangered species in the pipeline’s path. A permit that complies with the law is required to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The case had been brought before the court by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of clients Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and the Virginia Wilderness Committee.
Construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been stopped since December 2018 when multiple permits were called into question or overturned including permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those permits are all still outstanding. Among the problems for this pipeline is a Federal Court decision that the Forest Service erred in allowing the pipeline to carve through national forests and was not authorized to allow the project to cross the Appalachian Trail.
The future of the project depends on who you talk to. In a press release celebrating the decision, the Southern Environmental Law Center said that the project is currently several years behind schedule and more than $2 billion over budget, and based on the rejected permits, there is no clear path forward to construct the pipeline on its current route. However, Dominion spokesperson Aaron Ruby said “Based on the clear direction provided by the court, we expect FERC and the Fish and Wildlife Service will be able to immediately begin working to correct the issues with the permits. Once the new Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement are issued, we will seek the necessary approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to resume construction. We’re confident we remain on track to complete the project by late 2021.”
Time, and the courts, will tell.