Federal officials halt ACP construction

By: T.C. Hunter - Managing editor

LUMBERTON — Federal officials have ordered a halt to construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, days after a federal appeals court threw out two key permits needed for construction.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced the order in a letter Friday to Dominion Energy, the project’s lead developer.

“We are already working with the key agencies to resolve the issues in FERC’s order so we can resume construction as soon as possible. We are confident these issues can be resolved quickly without causing unnecessary delay to the project,” Aaron Ruby, Media Relations manager for Dominion Energy, said in an emailed statement.

Ruby’s statement reads in part, “FERC has given us the opportunity to provide evidence of any portions of the project that serve an independent public need and are not impacted by the recent court rulings. We will respond with strong evidence demonstrating the independent public need to proceed with construction of the Supply Header project, as well as portions of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in West Virginia, eastern Virginia and North Carolina. These portions of the project will serve home heating and manufacturing needs in eastern Virginia and North Carolina and are not affected by recent court rulings.”

Dominion has partnered with Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas to build the $5 billion, 600-mile pipeline that would carry natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina. The pipeline would end near Pembroke.

On Monday, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit was “arbitrary and capricious” regarding its effect on five threatened or endangered species.

The judges also vacated a right-of-way permit for the pipeline to pass underneath the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The FERC ruling is not the only obstacle to construction of the ACP in Robeson County. A court hearing is scheduled for Monday in Lumberton regarding a conditional use permit the Robeson County Board of Commissioners approved on Aug. 7, 2017. The permit cleared the way for the construction of a metering station and a 350-foot-tall microwave cell tower on land the pipeline’s builders own near Prospect.

The approval was challenged in court in early October 2017. As a result, the monitoring station and tower have not been built.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been the most thoroughly reviewed infrastructure project in the history of our region,” Ruby wrote in his statement. “The recent action by the courts and FERC are further evidence of this unprecedented scrutiny and the high standard that is being applied to this project.”

The ACP is critical to the economic and environmental future of the region, and the pipeline’s builders are working as quickly as they can to get construction back underway and to avoid unnecessary delays, according to Ruby.

“Delaying this infrastructure will force consumers and businesses to pay higher energy costs,” Ruby said in his statement. “It will slow down the transition to cleaner energy, and it will deprive public utilities of the reliable energy they need to heat the homes of a growing population and power local businesses.”

T.C. Hunter

Managing editor

Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at tchunter@robesonian.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at tchunter@robesonian.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.