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AP: Appeals Court Tosses Key Permits for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A federal appeals court has thrown out two key permits for the Atlantic Coast pipeline.

Environmental groups say 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, part of the National Park System.

Lead developer Dominion Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Statement from Atlantic Coast Pipeline: 

The following is a statement by Atlantic Coast Pipeline spokesperson Aaron Ruby in response to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ rulings today vacating the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Incidental Take Statement and the National Park Service’s right of way permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline:

We will work with the agencies to resolve the Fourth Circuit Court’s concerns and reinstate our permits as soon as possible. We believe the Court’s concerns can be promptly addressed through additional review by the agencies without causing unnecessary delay to the project. In the meantime, we will continue making progress with construction in West Virginia and North Carolina.

The court’s opinion clarifies its May 15 order on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Incidental Take Statement. We have already provided the agency with all of the information necessary to issue a revised Incidental Take Statement that complies with the court’s ruling. We anticipate the agency will do so shortly. The Fish & Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion, the broader permit authorizing construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, remains in place.

As we have stated previously, the court’s ruling on the Incidental Take Statement impacts only a small portion of the ACP route – roughly 20 miles in West Virginia, 80 miles in Virginia and no areas in North Carolina. We have avoided these areas since the court’s initial ruling on May 15, and we will continue avoiding them until the agency issues a revised Incidental Take Statement.

With respect to the National Park Service’s approval to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway, the court’s opinion confirms the agency’s authority to issue the permit but remands the permit to allow the agency to correct certain errors and omissions in the permit record. We believe the extensive public record and mitigation requirements already in place provide ample support for the agency to promptly reissue the permit.

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