By Elizabeth E. Payne
As energy companies push for rushed decisions on their proposed natural gas pipeline projects, challenges raised by citizen and environmental groups are gaining momentum.
On Sept. 7, ranking executives from Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Company Gas — the companies behind the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline — urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve this pipeline that would stretch from West Virginia across Virginia and into North Carolina “at the earliest possible time.”
This request was made less than two weeks after a federal appeals court ruled that FERC had not adequately considered the impact of burning natural gas on the climate when it approved a southeastern pipeline project that includes the Sabal Trail Pipeline. The federal agency must redo its environmental impact statement, though the pipeline has been carrying gas since June 14, according to InsideClimate News.
It is unclear what, if any, impact this ruling will have on FERC’s approval process in the future.
Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a legal advocacy group, has challenged the Special Use Permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s proposed compressor station in Buckingham County, Va. The action was based on the county’s zoning laws and filed on behalf of a farmer whose land would be affected.
Meanwhile, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper delayed a decision about whether or not to issue water permits for the pipeline until mid-December.
Challenges to the Mountain Valley Pipeline are also moving forward. If approved the project would span 300 miles across West Virginia and Virginia.
On Sept. 7, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection withdrew the water permits it had issued to the Mountain Valley Pipeline project in March 2017 in order to “reevaluate” the project’s application.
Pipeline projects need state water permits under the federal Clean Water Act before they can begin construction, but they are not required to have them before FERC decides whether or not to approve a project.
On Sept. 15, commissioners in Fayette County, W.Va., decided to delay a decision about rezoning land for a compressor station for the MVP until the state reissued water quality permits.
FERC could make its decision about the Mountain Valley Pipeline at any time and could issue a permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as early as Oct. 19.