All construction has stopped along the 600-mile route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, including in North Carolina, after a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last Friday.
The basis for the court’s stay is the risk pipeline construction presents to four endangered species: the Indiana bat, Clubshell mussels, Rusty-Patched Bumblebee and the Madison Cave Isopod.
These species are found along a 100-mile stretch in Virginia and West Virginia.
Three plaintiffs — Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and the Virginia Wilderness Committee — have sued the Department of the Interior and the US Fish and Wildlife Service over their Biological Assessments and Incidental Take Permits related to the ACP.
Co-owned by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, is not a defendant, but has intervened in the case.
Incidental Take Permits allow for a certain number of endangered or threatened species to be “harassed” or killed during the construction of a project. Although the four species mentioned in the case haven’t been found along the North Carolina route, more than two dozen, rare, threatened or sensitive species live in the forests, streams and rivers here. Among them are the Neuse River Waterdog, the Green Floater, Rafinesque’s Big-Eared Bat, Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, the Atlantic Pigtoe and the Carolina Fatmucket.
The project has been the target of several successful legal challenges, many of them based on federal permits and decisions that the court has found substantively lacking.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline spokesperson Aaron Ruby issued a statement on the project’s website, saying that the court’s stay should not extend to North Carolina.
We respectfully but strongly disagree with the court’s decision. We believe this stay is not only unwarranted, but overly broad. We are filing a motion for emergency clarification on the scope of the court’s decision.
We do not believe there is any basis for the court to stay the entire Biological Opinion, which authorizes all 600 miles of the project. The issues in this case involve a much narrower scope of the project covered under the Incidental Take Statement – only four species and roughly 100 miles in West Virginia and Virginia. We will have more clarity on the scope of the court’s stay and its impact on the project when the court responds to our motion.