Court ruling suspending ACP permit to have no impact in Upshur Co.

BUCKHANNON – A recent ruling by a federal court to stay a permit allowing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross bodies of water in Randolph and Pocahontas counties won’t have any effect on pipeline construction in Upshur County – or anywhere else, for that matter.

Dominion Energy spokesperson Samantha Norris said Friday that a Nov. 7 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that temporarily annuls a water-crossing permit – known as Nationwide Permit 12 – won’t generate any substantial delays in the project.

“The court’s stay temporarily suspends our Army Corps permit for water body crossings in the Huntington District of West Virginia (Randolph and Pocahontas counties),” Norris wrote in an email to My Buckhannon Friday. “We will suspend water body crossings in these two counties until the case is resolved.

“The court’s ruling has no impact on any other construction activity in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina,” Norris added, referring to the three states through which the 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline crosses. “As such, we don’t expect any significant delays.”

The Nov. 7 ruling to which Norris refers was handed down after lawyers representing several environmental advocacy groups, including the Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition and the W.Va. Highlands Conservancy, asked the court to invalidate the permit because it didn’t meet two conditions, according to a Charleston Gazette-Mail article.

The two conditions are that stream crossings must be completed in a 72-hour period and structures OK’ed by the permit cannot stymie fish from swimming upstream or downstream, according to the article.

Lawyers for the environmental groups argued those two conditions were not being met and filed suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which issues Nationwide Permit 12, asking it to stay the permit. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, granting the motion, a copy of the document shows.

Norris said Dominion, the primary owner and operator of the 42-inch-wide natural gas pipeline, will continue making headway, despite the temporary setback. Work in Upshur County, she added, is currently underway in areas south east of the Buckhannon River.

“We will continue making progress across all other areas of the project, including Upshur County where our work is focused in areas southeast of the Buckhannon River,” Norris wrote. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been the most thoroughly reviewed infrastructure project in the history of our region. This additional scrutiny by the courts only reinforces the incredibly high standard that is being applied to the project.”

The ACP – a joint venture involving Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas – has encountered several challenges from environmental and property owners’ rights groups throughout construction. The most substantial of those came in the form of a five-week shutdown after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission served Dominion with a Stop Work Order Aug. 10 after the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that two critical environmental permits were invalid.

The Stop Work Order applied to the entire project unlike the Nov. 7 ruling, which is related to specific sections of the pipeline route.

The pipeline originates in Harrison County, traveling through Lewis, Upshur, Pocahontas and Randolph before heading into Virginia and North Carolina and ultimately, ending in Robeson County, North Carolina.

According to an interactive map on ACP’s website, the pipeline traverses 23 miles in Upshur County, 30 miles in Randolph and 25 in Pocahontas.

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