The biological opinion and taking statement issued for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and twice struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (most recently in July of this year), is once again on the drawing boards. Dominion Energy and FWS have begun consultations required under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). According to minutes released this week of an October 22 meeting between officials with Dominion, Duke Energy, FWS staff and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the status of recent surveys that have been conducted on endangered species that would be affected by the ACP was reviewed. It was indicated that two species that were listed under the ESA since FERC’s approval of the ACP – the yellow land and candy darter – will be included in the new assessment.
Construction on the ACP was halted in December of last year because of questions raised in the Fourth Circuit decision vacating the latest FWS biological opinion. FERC has indicated that it will not approve the resumption of ACP construction until there is a valid biological opinion.