Construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was suspended last December due to the vacating of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological opinion and taking statement for the project. There are other permits for the ACP that have either been invalidated by court decisions or are being challenged. Here is a brief rundown of the status of the key cases. A more complete status report on legal challenges is posted and kept up to date on the ABRA website.
- Fish and Wildlife Service – The biological opinion and taking statement (Biop), as required under provisions of the Endangered Species Act, has been vacated twice by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for being inadequate; the second time was in July. The agency is currently developing a new Biop. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) has said that after the new Biop is issued, it will seek permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to resume construction. When that will be is unclear.
- Forest Service Permit – The U.S. Forest Service permit, which included the right for the ACP to drill underneath the Appalachian Trail (AT), was vacated by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2018. Atlantic has appealed the case – Cowpasture River Association, et. al. vs. Forest Service – to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case is expected to be heard by the Court in late January or early February, with a decision by June 2020.
- FERC Certificate – Several challenges to the certificate issued by FERC in December 2017 were consolidated in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments, originally scheduled for October, have been deferred pending the Supreme Court’s decision on the Cowpasture case (see above).
- Buckingham Compressor Station – A challenge to the air permit issued for the ACP compressor station in Buckingham County, VA was argued before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 29. A decision is expected by early 2020.
- Army Corps of Engineers Permit – In January 2019 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withdrew its previously issued permit for the ACP to cross rivers and streams under its jurisdiction. A new permit has not yet been reissued.
- National Park Service Permit – The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated on August 6, 2019 the permit issued by the National Park Service for the ACP to pass under the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) because the permit was inconsistent with the Park Service’s own guideline. A subsequent permit was issued, then challenged by several ABRA members, and withdrawn by the Park Service. At this writing, there is no permit for the ACP to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Note: This permit is distinct from the vacated permit issued by the Forest Service for the ACP to cross the AT. The ACP will need both permits since the AT and BRP are parallel to one another at the proposed point of crossing.)