Clearing the way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in North Carolina has been temporarily halted until another legal knot is untied.
The Army Corps of Engineers ordered the stay on Tuesday at the request of Dominion Energy, which has been building the 600-mile natural gas pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia. Duke Energy will build the rest of the pipeline through eight North Carolina counties.
Dominion sought a delay while an appeal of a ruling in a lawsuit challenging a portion of the project in West Virginia is resolved, according to Tuesday’s Army Corps’ letter to Dominion. An environmental law and policy nonprofit group, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, is challenging a water-crossing permit in West Virginia, according to The Gazette-Mail in Charleston, W. Va.
On Nov. 7, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed the permit that the Army Corps had issued for the water crossing.
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“Because of that order, it is uncertain whether NWP (nationwide permit) 12 will ultimately be able to authorize work for ACP in North Carolina. Therefore as requested, the Wilmington district finds it appropriate to temporarily suspend your authorization and await clarity on this issue,” Scott McLendon, chief of the Army Corps regulatory division in Wilmington wrote.
The project has been halted several times by legal actions brought by environmental groups challenging various stages of the construction. Tuesday’s letter was first reported by N.C. Policy Watch.
In August, the Gazette-Mail and the nonprofit journalism group ProPublica published a report saying state and federal regulators were streamlining the process for the utility at the expense of environmental risks. That is also the allegation in the environmentalists’ appeal of the water-crossing permit.
The Sierra Club is among the organizations suing to stop the pipeline.
Kelly Martin of the Sierra Club issued a statement Wednesday: “If the polluting corporations behind the ACP ever thought this would be easy, they know better now. There is no right way to build this dirty, dangerous pipeline and we won’t stop fighting it until construction is permanently halted.”
Representatives of Dominion Energy or Duke Energy could not be reached by phone or email for comment on Wednesday.