RICHMOND — Environmental organizations have widened their legal assault on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the federal permit that authorized construction of the 600-mile natural gas pipeline through three states.
The Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed suit in the 4th Circuit on Thursday, less than a week after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied their longstanding request for a rehearing of its decision to grant the project a certificate of public convenience and necessity.
Lawyers representing 14 environmental organizations urged the court to review FERC’s decision to issue the certificate on Oct. 13, 2017, and deny the rehearing on Aug. 10, the same day the commission ordered work to stop on the project because the 4th Circuit had vacated two federal permits necessary for its construction.
“FERC ordered the ACP construction stopped because the 4th Circuit determined that permits were issued without proper scrutiny,” said Greg Buppert, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville.
“On the very same day, FERC rejected a rehearing request in which the conservation groups asserted that it also rushed through its decision to building a pipeline that we don’t need,” Buppert said in a statement released by the environmental organizations.
Environmentalists also cited a lengthy dissent by Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to the 2-1 decision by FERC to deny the rehearing.
In it, LaFleur doubted the need for the pipeline and challenged the agency’s process for evaluating its effects, especially in combination with the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which was under construction in Southwest Virginia until FERC ordered work to stop after the 4th Circuit threw out a permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service.
“It’s clear that even within FERC there are questions about the need for this pipeline and the unnecessary harm it will cause to the surrounding communities, the environment, and the customers in Virginia and North Carolina that will bear the financial burden,” Buppert said.
Dominion Energy, leader of the company that had begun building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in West Virginia and North Carolina, responded that when the FERC issued the certificate last fall it acknowledged the need for the project to serve public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina.
“The end use of this gas is well established on the public record and is a matter of urgent public necessity,” Dominion spokeswoman Jen Kostyniuk said in a statement on Thursday.
“Our public utility customers are depending on this infrastructure to generate cleaner electricity, heat homes and power local businesses,” Kostyniuk said. “The project will result in a growing economy, a cleaner environment, and lower energy costs for consumers and businesses across the region.”