BUCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A federal judge has thrown out a permit needed to build a natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County. The ruling from a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for opponents of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).
The community of Union Hill has been fighting to appeal the permit issued by the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board. Now, Dominion will have to resolve the issues addressed by the court if it wants the project to move forward.
A federal appeals court has thrown out one of the permits needed by Dominion Energy and its partners. That permit dealt with a natural gas compressor station in the Union Hill area of Buckingham County, a community founded by freed slaves after the Civil War.
In its written ruling, the three-judge panel said it agreed with opponents that the board failed to assess the station's potential for disproportionate health effects on the community of Union Hill.
"It’s going to force them to do the work they should've done in the beginning,” Sharon Ponton, a member of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, said.
Advocates with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League have been working with people who live near the site. They say the ruling is a big victory for the people of Buckingham County.
"It’s just a huge victory for the community who has been fighting back for five years,” Ponton said.
Construction on the 600-mile pipeline that would run from West Virginia to North Carolina has been halted since December 2018.
The potential environmental impacts of the projects have gained the attention of people across the country, including former Vice President Al Gore who visited Buckingham County in early 2019.
"This pipeline should be canceled. The compressor station should be canceled. It is an environmental injustice and it's not too much to say environmental racism located in this historically black community,” Gore said.
Those against the project say they hope to see the potential impacts on the environment sooner rather than later.
"This isn't the end, we haven't stopped the pipeline yet, and we will continue to fight,” Ponton said.
A statement from Dominion says that it is confident it can resolve the issues outlined by the court in a timely manner.
01/07/2020 Dominion Energy Statement:
The Buckingham permit unanimously approved by the State Air Control Board is the strictest air permit of any compressor station in the country, with protections far exceeding federal guidelines for vulnerable populations. As a result, the Buckingham compressor station will have significantly fewer emissions than any other facility of its kind. In a study conducted last year, the Virginia Department of Health concluded that the facility will not pose any health risks to nearby residents.
In its opinion today, the Court recognized the stringency of the permit, while requiring more explanation and analysis from the state to support its approval. We will immediately begin working with the state to resolve the procedural issues identified by the Court and are confident this can be completed in a timely manner. We expect the project will still deliver significant volumes to customers under our existing timeline, even as we work to resolve this permit.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is needed now more than ever for our economy and to accelerate our path to a low-carbon future. New infrastructure will solve the chronic shortages of natural gas in Hampton Roads and eastern North Carolina and allow these communities to revitalize their manufacturing economy. It will also provide the reliable natural gas we need to support the rapid expansion of renewables across Virginia and North Carolina. This project is all about growing the economy and moving toward clean energy, and we remain totally committed to its completion.