4th Circuit Clogs Atlantic Coast Pipeline

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 15, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Court opinions are like pipelines -- sometimes it takes a while for them to get through.

At least that's what's happening with the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The appeals court finally got its message through to the contractors building the 600-mile pipeline.

Stop, the judges said in Sierra Club v. United States Department of the Interior. It wasn't the first time.

Permit Problems

In another blow to the pipeline project, the Fourth Circuit threw out a permit granted by the National Park Service. After the ruling, the plaintiffs threw down.

"This is an example of what happens when dangerous projects are pushed through based on politics rather than science," said D.J. Gerken, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. "This pipeline project was flawed from the start."

The appeals panel said the permit was inadequate to protect the environment in May. But that didn't stop the contractor, which continued work while the panel considered particulars. Now the judges have given the company reason to pause.

"We will work with the agencies to resolve the Fourth Circuit Court's concerns and reinstate our permits as soon as possible," a spokesperson said. "We believe the Court's concerns can be promptly addressed through additional review by the agencies without causing unnecessary delay to the project."

Coming Through

Dominion Energy, the lead contractor on the project, said the permit at issue involves about 100 miles of the 600-mile route. That allows the rest of the project to go forward under a broader permit, spokesman Aaron Ruby said.

"The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been the most thoroughly reviewed infrastructure project in the history of our region," he said. "Today's court ruling is further evidence of this unprecedented scrutiny and the high standard that is being applied to the project."

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