Nov. 08–A federal appeals court ordered a temporary halt Wednesday afternoon to a water-crossing permit needed to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The order came one week after a group of environmental and citizen groups asked the court to stay the so-called “Nationwide Permit 12” needed to build the 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline. The pipeline is primarily being built by Dominion Energy, and will run from northern West Virginia into North Carolina.
The court shouldn’t allow the reinstatement of the project’s Nationwide 12 permit because it can’t meet two separate conditions, particularly when building the pipeline across the Greenbrier River, lawyers for the environmental and citizen groups wrote.
The two conditions, inserted by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to protect the state’s water quality, stipulate that stream crossings must be completed in 72 hours, and that structures authorized by the permit cannot impede fish from swimming upstream or downstream.
The Army Corps of Engineers originally issued the permit before the 4th Circuit Court suspended that verification in July. During that time, Atlantic Coast Pipeline changed its Greenbrier River crossing plan and instead decided to use a method that lawyers for the environmental groups say violates those conditions. The Corps issued a reinstatement of the permit in October. Atlantic Coast Pipeline said it intended to start construction again as soon as Thursday.
Last week, the environmental group asked the court for a stay to pause construction.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the two-page order from Chief Judge Roger Gregory, with the concurrence of Judge James Wynn and Judge Stephanie Thacker Wednesday.
In a statement, Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for the pipeline, said the project would temporarily suspend waterbody crossings in the Corps’ Huntington District of West Virginia.
“We stand behind the Army Corps’ approval of the project, and we will vigorously defend it in the courts. We do not believe this will cause any significant delay to the project because it only temporarily impacts waterbody crossings in West Virginia’sHuntington District,” Ruby said.
The same three judges issued a similar order for another natural gas pipeline’s Clean Water Act permit in October. Then, they said the Mountain Valley Pipeline similarly couldn’t meet the state’s 72-hour time limit. The two natural gas pipelines are among the many being built to tap into the Marcellus Shale region of Northern West Virginia.
In August, a joint examination by the Gazette-Mail and the nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica showed state and federal regulators were changing their rules to speed pipeline approval and construction when legal issues were raised about the projects.
Reach Kate Mishkin at email@example.com, 304-348-4843 or follow @katemishkin on Twitter.
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